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‘Top Kill’ Effort Seems to Be Working

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After days of delays and testing — and the weighing of several options — BP began shooting as much as 50,000 barrels of heavy drilling fluids into the drill pipes and hoses above the well at 1 p.m. Central time. The procedure has worked around the world to stop leaking wells, but never at the pressures and temperatures found a mile underwater.

Government and BP officials agreed to move forward with the top kill after engineers said their tests showed that the chance of stopping the oil leak was greater than the risk of making it worse.

Minutes before the maneuver began, one technician working with BP said he was concerned that the effort could fail within minutes. Engineers had warned that the pressurized flow of liquids might not overcome the pressure of the oil and gas rushing from below the seabed.

But throughout the afternoon, as the blowout preventer filled with mud at increasing pressures apparently with no rupture, engineers following the procedure were more hopeful.

“They are probably pressured up to full pressure, and nothing has ruptured yet,” said Donald Van Nieuwenhuise, director of petroleum geoscience programs at the University of Houston, four hours after the maneuver began. “It’s a good sign because it means everything is holding together.”


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