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BP tries experimental plan to plug Gulf oil gusher

 This image made from video released by British Petroleum (BP PLC) shows equipment being used to try and plug a gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico...
 Graphic explains how to top kill a leaking oil well
 This Wednesday evening, May 26, 2010 image made from video released by British Petroleum (BP PLC) shows equipment being used to try and plug a gushin...

APTOPIX Gulf Oil Spill

This image made from video released by British Petroleum (BP PLC) shows equipment being used to try and plug a gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico...

TOP KILL

Graphic explains how to top kill a leaking oil well

Gulf Oil Spill

This Wednesday evening, May 26, 2010 image made from video released by British Petroleum (BP PLC) shows equipment being used to try and plug a gushin...

BP engineers reported no problems yet as they pumped heavy mud into a blown-out undersea well, but the company's CEO said they won't know until late Thursday if their experimental plan to stop oil from gushing into the Gulf of Mexico has worked.
If the risky procedure, known as a top kill, stops the flow of oil to the surface, BP would then inject cement into the well to seal it. The top kill has worked above ground but has never before been tried 5,000 feet beneath the sea.
BP pegged its chance of success at 60 to 70 percent.
"The absence of any news is good news," said Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is overseeing the operation. He added: "It's a wait and see game here right now, so far nothing unfavorable."
"We're doing everything we can to bring it to closure, and actually we're executing this top kill job as efficiently and effectively as we can," BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said.
Fishermen, hotel and restaurant owners, politicians and residents along the coast are fed up with BP's failures to stop the oil that is coating Louisiana's marshes and wildlife _ anger that is now turning against President Barack Obama and his administration.
Polls show the public is souring on their handling of the catastrophe. Obama is heading to the region Friday.
Sarah Rigaud, owner of Sarah's Restaurant in Grand Isle is tired and nervous. The oil has to be stopped, she said.
"The tourists won't come," Rigaud said Wednesday, serving lunch to a half-full restaurant of mostly oil workers and locals.
"It makes me very nervous. I have anxiety attacks," she said. "Every day I pray that something happens, that it will be stopped and everybody can get back to normal."
The gusher, which has spewed 7 million gallons of crude into the Gulf by the most conservative tallies, began after an offshore drilling rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers. Dozens of witness statements obtained by The Associated Press show a combination of equipment failure and a deference to the chain of command aboard the rig impeded the system that should have stopped the gusher before it became an environmental disaster.
Additional leaks springing from the top kill solution pose a grave risk, said Anil Kulkarni, a mechanical engineering professor at Penn State.
"One scenario is that it may make things worse," Kulkarni said. "If it ruptures all over, then it would be even more difficult to close it."
Suttles said BP had not detected any new leaks as of Wednesday night.
He said within the next day, if oil stops flowing to the surface, then engineers will know the drilling fluid being pumped in was starting to work. Engineers were monitoring the well's pressure readings constantly to determine how much oil was escaping.
If not, the company had several backup plans, including sealing the well's blowout preventer with a smaller cap, which would contain the oil. An earlier attempt to cap the blowout preventer failed. BP could also try a "junk shot" _ shooting golf balls and other debris into the blowout preventer to clog it up _ during the top kill process.
Last week, the company inserted a mile-long tube to siphon some of the oil into a tanker. The tube sucked up 924,000 gallons of oil, but engineers had to dismantle it during the top kill.
A permanent solution would be to drill a second well to stop the leak, but that was expected to take a couple months.
Some 100 miles (160 kilometers) of Louisiana coastline had been hit by the oil, the Coast Guard said.
Residents in Grand Isle at the tip of Louisiana wondered when the oil nightmare was going to end.
"Certainly there's hope. But the reality for us is that whether they cap it or not, we're still going to have an ecological and economic disaster down here, one that we don't know whether or not we'll be in a position to recover," Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said.
In Pass a Loutre, the odor wafting above the oily water resembled that from an auto shop.
"There's no wildlife in Pass a Loutre. It's all dead," Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said.
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Associated Press writers Brian Skoloff in Grand Isle, La., Mike Kunzelman in New Orleans, Kevin McGill in Venice, Julie Pace in Fremont, Calif., and Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this story.
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Online:
http://globalwarming.house.gov/spillcam