BP has cut the bent riser pipe off the top of the blowout preventer on the oil wellhead at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, national incident commander for the oil spill response, announced at a news conference a few minutes ago.
Deepwater Horizon Response tweeted the news a few minutes ago:
UPDATE: Riser pipe successfully cut. LMRP cap to be seated today. First relief well now due to be completed mid-August.
The company is now preparing to install a device to capture oil and gas that continues to spew rapidly into the Atlantic Ocean.
According to NPR's Richard Harris, BP gave up on its high-precision diamond-tipped saw, which got stuck halfway through the job. Instead, they went with a giant shear.
"That works more or less like pruning shears," he explains. "Only it weighs many tons, and is driven with with hydraulic fluid."
Federal officials say a capture device is standing by, and they hope it will be in place, on top of the rapid fountain of oil and gas, later today.
Because BP wasn't able to make a smooth cut with the diamond saw, that "top hat" capture device will sit on top of an oddly shaped opening. That means it is less likely to be as effective in capturing all the oil.
Earlier today, the White House said the president will return to the Gulf Coast tomorrow, to assess the latest efforts to deal with the massive, ongoing oil spill.
Meanwhile, emergency workers in Florida are rushing to add more booms to a miles-long chain, as the edge of the slick approaches beaches in Pensacola. Forecasters say oil may wash ashore in Florida tomorrow.