BP Hopes 'Top Kill' Will Stop Oil Gusher BP will try again on Wednesday to plug the runaway oil well in the Gulf of Mexico by pumping heavy fluid into it. The tactic, called a "top kill," is a risky procedure -- a failure could substantially increase the flow of oil into the sea. But if it succeeds, it will finally bring to an end a disaster now in its second month.
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BP Hopes 'Top Kill' Will Stop Oil Gusher

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BP Hopes 'Top Kill' Will Stop Oil Gusher

BP Hopes 'Top Kill' Will Stop Oil Gusher

BP Hopes 'Top Kill' Will Stop Oil Gusher

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BP will try again on Wednesday to plug the runaway oil well in the Gulf of Mexico by pumping heavy fluid into it. The tactic, called a "top kill," is a risky procedure — a failure could substantially increase the flow of oil into the sea. But if it succeeds, it will finally bring to an end a disaster now in its second month.

DAVID GREENE, Host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

And for more, we're joined now by NPR's Richard Harris. Good morning.

RICHARD HARRIS: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: So if all does go well today, how will it work?

HARRIS: Now, some of that mud will undoubtedly ooze back up onto the seafloor through the leaks that we've been watching in those pipes. But the hope is that if you can pump it fast enough, you can actually pump it down the well and pump it faster than the oil and gases coming up the well. And if you can do this, you essentially create a mud cork on the top of this well. And if they're successful, that will actually stop the flow.

MONTAGNE: So that's the aim, but if things don't go according to plan?

HARRIS: They've found obviously limited success thus far in capturing oil once it's leaking out onto the seafloor. But this is the third try. It might work better than the other tries they've had.

MONTAGNE: Okay. But just the last thing with this top kill. May be it won't do damage. It's also possible it just plain won't work.

HARRIS: That's true also. And then that device would be brought into play in a couple of days to try to capture the flow, while they think about what to do next. Or maybe simply just wait for the relief well to be drilled.

MONTAGNE: BP still says the oil well is only spilling about 5,000 barrels a day. Outside experts - and they've told you this in your reporting - say many times more oil is spilling. Are there consequences today if BP's figures - if those figures are actually way off?

HARRIS: But we also asked BP executive Doug Suttles last week, since they are standing by their number and sort of rejecting the work of this outside scientist, why don't they make their own scientific measurements? And obviously they have much more access to video and other important information. And here was his reply to that question.

DOUG SUTTLES: We found it very, very difficult to measure this flow just from the video images. Now, it's possible that there going to be techniques that some people have that we were unaware of that will allow us to do it. And I think that's some the focus of this effort the federal government is launching.

HARRIS: Now, that effort is a committee that was assembled last week by the federal government, and after this week the persistent questions about how much oil actually is spilling out from the seafloor.

MONTAGNE: And what's the status of the federal investigation?

HARRIS: So she's not talking to us. We don't exactly know what's going on. But maybe we'll get some answers later this week, maybe next week. It's kind of up in the air.

MONTAGNE: Richard, just quickly. Will we be able to watch this top kill procedure as it happens, 'cause BP has a live feed right there from the bottom of the ocean?

HARRIS: They do. I was looking at it this morning. We're seeing some things from the bottom of the ocean but we aren't necessarily seeing the seat of the action.

MONTAGNE: Richard, thanks very much.

HARRIS: My pleasure.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Richard Harris.

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