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Top Kill Is Dead. BP Fails to Stop Gushing Oil Well in the Gulf

A makeshift Oil-Man Scarecrow was placed along the road on the way to Grand Isle, La., complete with respirator, X’ed-out eyes, and an oily fish in hand. Image by Ryan Marshall for

BP's COO Doug Suttles has announced that operation Top Kill, a plan involving the pumping of heavy mud, concrete, and junk into its gushing oil well 5,000 feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico, has failed. The next step, the New York Times reports, is a "lower marine riser package cap," in which workers plan to saw off the riser and put a device on top to capture the oil. So far, the leak has resulted in the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

Experts say anywhere from 504,000 to 4.2 million gallons a day are escaping from the well that ruptured after Transocean's Deepwater Horizon platform (leased by BP) exploded on April 20. Recently, scientists have discovered that a massive amount of the oil has not risen to the surface and could be lurking 1,000 feet or more under the surface of the gulf. One plume is an estimated 22 miles long. PBS has a running estimate, based on several evaluations of the flow rate (BP has not acknowledged a definitive figure).


Read more about the Gulf Oil Spill

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  • Chris Reich

    It's time for BP Solar to launch a major initiative in the U.S. to off-set the Gulf damage. A self-imposed carbon trading program would do wonders for BP's image not to mention taking them truly "Beyond Petroleum". Why aren't they?

    Chris Reich

  • Erika Hayes James

    BP has made numerous missteps in the 5 weeks since the initial explosion that resulted in the massive oil spill. Transparency, or more accurately the perception of inadequate transparency, is one of those missteps. In the absence of meaningful communication from the sources that are privy to what is happening (in this case BP and Transocean), speculation inevitably led to inaccuracies and exacerbated the blaming game. Lack of transparency also leads to the assumption that the companies are not doing enough, or enough of the right things, to stop the flow of oil.

    Generally speaking transparency during a crisis is a good thing—regardless of how ugly the truth is, but I question the decision to put the ‘spillcam’ on live feed. Perhaps it was an attempt to change course and become more transparent. But, I think it may be a stretch to say that the on-going live ‘spillcam’ feed is actually a strategy. Rather it comes across as merely a tactic to try to reclaim some of BP’s reputation by allowing the public to see the top kill maneuver. Doing so merely gives the illusion that they are being more transparent.

    Transparency comes in two forms. There is transparency in the tactical response to the crisis, and there is transparency in the emotional response to the crisis. The ‘spillcam’ is a tactical crisis response. Yet, the gulf coast region is facing a tremendous devastation, and the lack of emotional transparency, in this case communicating a sense of compassion, has compounded their problems and further aggravated the public.

    Furthermore, one can question whether the ‘spillcam’ is in fact a mechanism for transparency at all. The increasing amount of oil floating atop the shore’s surface is visible to the naked eye. We don’t need the ‘spillcam’ to tell us that the oil well has not been plugged. So watching the live feed speaks more to our voyeuristic tendency than it does our inclination to be rational. And what perfect timing. Now that the reality shows have had their season finales, we can turn on ‘spillcam’ t.v. and tune into “Top Kill”. Sounds like a compelling show to me.

    For BP’s sake, I hope that they seek other, more meaningful ways to be transparent—tactically and emotionally. The lack of transparency, or creating only an illusion of transparency, not only makes them less credible, but undermines whatever confidence the public may have initially had in BP’s ability to effectively resolve this issue.

  • Tyler Gray

    Obviously as an editor trying to get responses -- any responses -- from BP, and getting nothing, it's maddening. The way they've managed to block access to affected areas -- shores all around the Gulf -- is ridiculous. The governments in towns around the Gulf are strapped. So they let BP step in and take charge. That has so far involved a coordinated PR campaign in addition to cleanup. They've successfully prevented reporters -- including ours -- from seeing this up close in a lot of situations. But they haven't completely been able to completely choke off access. Stay tuned.

  • Hotrao

    Those following me from a while know that I usually don't talk on other countries problems, just because on the other side, I don't like when people talk on my countries things.

    But I feel that gulf oil spill is a problem also of mine.

    Maybe is the first case of a local problem so big to become of worldwide breadth.

    What I feel is that we are facing something apocalyptic that should be prosecuted at full extent not only in the US, but on a transnational basis.

    Either if this is my first feeling, I think that there's a moment for reaction (closing the hole and stop oil spill) and a moment for putting BP under criminal investigation.

    Now we are in first phase and energies should be adressed to this.

    After I think BP should be judged, fairly but at full extent.

    And at the end we should learn something from what happened.

  • Phil

    The next method will involve to severe the top of the BOP. Even if the effect is minimal, is it possible they use the pipes they used to pump in mud to pump out oil so that the pressure could be reduced on top of the BOP ? Maybe there are more lateral pipes to plug to.

  • Tyler Gray

    Anybody out doing contract work for BP get the e-mail reminder of the NDA in your contract? Fwd to It's completely confidential.