Satellite image of a tropical hurricane
Tropical Storm Bonnie is moving closer to the Gulf of Mexico, but BP oil spill response team has confidence that cleanup plans will remain intact. (Photo: CC by NASA Goddard Photo and Video/Flickr)

Tropical Storm Bonnie turned away from the Bahamas Thursday and aimed at the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Storm warnings stopped nearly all oil spill containment and cleanup efforts. Thad Allen, the federal director of the spill response, had not yet given word to BP saying whether the massive flotilla engaged in the oil spill containment and cleanup must evacuate. The storm must pass before crews try a final effort to kill the well. But Allen said the feds are confident that an oil spill containment cap that has stemmed the flow from the ruptured well will hold during the storm.

Tropical Storm Bonnie puts hold on oil spill response

The storm system called Tropical Storm Bonnie could reach the Gulf of Mexico by Saturday,  forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said. The Associated Press reports that work on plugging the well has stopped just days before a relief well to permanently seal the ruptured well is scheduled to be completed. Original plans were for crews to reinforce the last few feet of the relief well with cement on Wednesday and Thursday, before killing it once and for all by pumping mud into the gusher. Two more weeks could pass before they can resume the effort to kill the well if Tropical Storm Bonnie forces an evacuation. To meet BP’s timeline of plugging the blowout by early August, the relief well would have to be complete by the end of July.

New well killing tactic still needs complete relief well

A new technique being discussed to plug the BP oil leak is called a “static kill” in oil industry parlance. The New York Times reports that to permanently stop the flow of oil and gas, a static kill is performed by pumping heavy drilling mud through the well via the blowout preventer. A static kill can’t start until the relief well casing is fully installed to prevent damaging the relief well in case something goes wrong. The relief well would be used to confirm the blowout is permanently sealed if the static kill works. To stop the well for good if the static kill fails, mud can be pumped into the relief well for a number of days or possibly weeks.

Pressure on oil spill cap increasing as planned

As Tropical Storm Bonnie draws closer, the government said BP can leave the oil spill containment cap on. Allen told Bloomberg that data from the well gave the response team confidence that leaving the cap in place wouldn’t be an issue. Pressure inside the well has risen to 6,863 pounds per square inch since BP sealed it July 15, indicating oil and gas is not being forced out elsewhere in the well bore, as outlined by BP’s website. A BP official said that each day the pressure holds gives the team more confidence.

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