NPR logo Government Approves BP's Proposal To Try 'Top Kill' Method On Gulf Oil Spill

Government Approves BP's Proposal To Try 'Top Kill' Method On Gulf Oil Spill

Federal officials have given BP the go-ahead to try to try its "top kill" method for plugging the oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, NPR's Richard Harris reports.

The Coast Guard posted the announcement on the official site of the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command:

Federal On-Scene Coordinator Rear Admiral Mary Landry, acting on the validation of government scientists and in consultation with the National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen, has granted approval for BP to begin proceeding with their attempt to cap the well using the technique known as the "top kill."

This expedited step provides the final authorization necessary to begin the procedure.

BP has been planning to pump heavy fluid, called "drilling mud," into the spewing oil well, hoping that, if they push enough into it, they will be able to clog the pipe and stop the leak.

The company has been running a series of tests to figure out — as best they can — how much mud it will take, and how quickly they should try to shoot it in.

According to Harris, those tests have given planners and federal overseers enough confidence to move forward.

BP says it could take hours — or even days — of trying before they know whether the "top kill" is going to work. If it doesn't, there is an oil-capture device standing by. The company hopes it will work better than previous attempts to capture oil and gas from the well.

Update at 2:24 p.m. ET: BP says it began the "top kill" maneuver at 2:00 p.m. ET.