WASHINGTON (CN) – The BP well that spilled 4.1 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico will be permanently closed the week after Labor Day, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Friday. “We want a stake in the heart of this well,” he said.
“We want to put it away forever,” Allen said. “And we don’t want any threat of further discharge to the environment.”
Speaking at the National Press Club, Allen said the response phase is almost over, but added that response teams are moving cautiously in the final steps of killing the well.
“We continue daily to check … the vital signs of the well,” he said, which include temperature checks, well vibration tests, visual and sound checks, and seismic and acoustic runs on rock formations surrounding the well.
Responders placed a cap on the broken wellhead on July 15, after which responders started slowly closing valves and testing the pressure of the well. Allen said response teams are halfway through performing pressure tests.
As of Friday morning, the ambient pressure in the well was 2,189 pounds per square inch, a number that has remained constant since testing started, Allen said, which signals the integrity of the well.
Once pressure tests are complete, response workers will remove the damaged blowout preventer, which will be preserved for evidence, and replace it with a new one before permanently sealing the well in what Allen calls the “plug and abandonment” phase.
The primary relief well, which will enable response teams to execute the bottom kill, is currently at 17,909 feet below sea level, and located three and a half feet horizontally from the failed Macondo well.
Operations will then transition into a recovery phase.
Allen said he’s working with parish presidents to come up with a “How Clean is Clean?” checklist for determining when beaches no longer need treatment. BP is not involved in the process, he said.
“We are not done,” Allen said. “Nobody has declared mission complete. This will be a longstanding effort.” He said that areas near Barataria Bay, the Chandelier Islands, and the Breton and Mississippi Sounds are especially affected.
“We still have oil to be dealt with, so this is not over, but we are in a transition,” he said.