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Plugging The Gulf Well

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Plugging The Gulf Well

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Plugging The Gulf Well

Plugging The Gulf Well

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BP plans to finish drilling its relief well this week. It's the final step in assuring that the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico will never flow again.

LIANE HANSEN, Host:

Later today, BP plans to continue drilling its relief well in the Gulf of Mexico. The runaway well appears to be dead and plugged, but the relief well will deliver a coup de gras, should once be necessary.

NPR's Richard Harris explains.

RICHARD HARRIS: When BP filled the blown out well with mud last week, you could practically hear the sigh of relief from folks in the industry who had been watching this disaster unfold throughout the spring and into the summer. And when BP pumped cement and filled the bottom of the well on Thursday, that really seemed to put the final punctuation mark on the runaway well.

But one man in particular was not satisfied - National Incident Commander Thad Allen told BP to go ahead and finish the relief well, which had nearly intersected the damaged well. So, BP is moving forward on that final step this coming week.

The hole is already less than five feet away from the cement-filled well and it's closing in at a very shallow angle. So, in less than 100 feet of drilling down, the relief well should finally connect with the steel casing that's lining the Macondo well. If the plug-in job from last week worked as planned, the relief well will simply drill into a cement-filled well.

But if by some chance there's any oil and gas still trying to flow up, the drillers will detect that and plug whatever leak remains with cement from the relief well. We'll know more about that toward the end of the week, according to the current schedule.

Even though this relief well and a second backup are tantalizingly close to a huge reservoir of oil and gas, BP says it will not use them to tap into the hydrocarbons. Instead, eventually, the relief wells will simply be plugged up and abandoned, just like the well that started this fiasco on April 20th.

Richard Harris, NPR News.

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