VENICE, La./HOUSTON, May 29 (Reuters) – BP Plc (BP.L) said on Saturday the complex “top kill” maneuver to plug its Gulf of Mexico oil well has failed, crushing hopes for a quick end to the largest oil spill in U.S. history already in its 40th day.
“We have not been able to stop the flow,” said Doug Suttles, the London-based oil giant’s chief operating officer.
“We have made the decision to move on to the next option,” he added.
That next option is called the lower marine riser package cap, one that captures oil from the well rather than plug it. Suttles said it could take four days or longer to show results.
U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Mary Landry, flanking Suttles at a daily briefing, said the news of the top kill failure was disappointing and that the best option for ending the spill was drilling a relief well which BP estimates will take two months.
The top kill maneuver started on Wednesday and involved pumping heavy fluids and other material into the well shaft to stifle the flow, then seal it with cement.
But it was fraught with risk because it had never been attempted at the depth of the well, a mile (1.6 km) beneath the sea.
The failure was a further blow to BP’s reputation and bottom line. The company has spent $940 million so far to try to plug the leak and clean up the sea and soiled marshlands vital to wildlife and fishing.
The news will also put further pressure on U.S. President Barack Obama, who is struggling to persuade Americans that his administration can handle the crisis. The plodding clean-up effort has sickened workers and left Gulf coast residents frustrated and angry.