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'Static kill' growing as option to end Gulf oil spill drama

BP wants to try a 'static kill' in the Gulf oil spill – similar to the failed 'top kill' – to stopper the top of the well until relief wells kill it from below. A decision could come as soon as Wednesday.

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Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen speaks to the news media about the BP Gulf oil spill in front of a line drawing of the containment stack at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico July 19, 2010. The stack is holding up so well that BP now wants to try a 'static kill' through it to close the well.

Alex Brandon/AP

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No news is good news for BP as its jerry-rigged containment system is holding the renegade Macondo well at bay for a sixth day in a row, meaning that US authorities could soon give the go-ahead to a “static kill” that could finally end the now three-month-long Gulf oil spill drama.

The consideration of a "static kill" is a sign of growing confidence in the new cap. It suggests that officials do not think the new cap is causing new leaks that could make the surrounding seafloor unstable.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who is leading the federal relief effort, dismissed concerns about seepage near the well. The largest leak – two miles from the site – is now believed to be related to a different well. Other smaller leaks detected closer to the well are like "drips" that don't yet indicate anything wrong with the well.

Instead, pressure is continuing to build within the well – an "encouraging sign" that the well below is not severely damaged, Allen said.

That has led BP to consider the so-called "static kill" procedure, which in some ways resembles the earlier, failed “top kill” effort. But BP senior vice president Kent Wells said Tuesday that the fact that the well is currently contained means it presents far fewer challenges than when it was blowing at near full-steam during the previous attempt.

“Unlike the ‘top kill,’ where we had to pump at high rates and pressure, that is not required with the ‘static kill,’ ” Mr. Wells said. “We would start pumping at low rates and pressure and after we get some mud in the hold the pressure would start to go down. So you very quickly start seeing benefits as opposed to risk.”

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