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A top hat or top kill? New phrases enter American vocabulary

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) -- BP has been trying for six weeks to stop oil from gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. It has tried to cap the damaged well and siphon the oil to the surface. So far, nothing has worked to halt the worst oil spill in U.S. history. However, the oil company's efforts thrust previously unfamiliar terminology into the headlines. Here's a look at some terms that are now a part of American vocabulary.

Blowout preventer: A 48-foot-tall, 450-ton apparatus that sits atop the well 5,000 feet below the surface. It failed to prevent the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform, and it didn't respond to attempts to shut off the flow of oil.

Containment dome: BP sent the device down to the sea floor in early May in an attempt to cover the leak and funnel the oil to the surface where it could be loaded onto ships. But natural gas crystals collected inside the structure, plugging an outlet at the top.

Top hat: In mid-May, the oil giant considered the smaller "top hat," a 5-foot-tall, 4-foot-diameter structure that weighed less than two tons. But instead, engineers opted for an insertion tube meant to pump oil from the leak to the surface. It did, but only captured about 20 percent of the leaking crude.

Top kill: BP had the greatest hope for this risky method in which viscous drilling fluid was pumped at high pressure into the leak. Engineers hoped to then cap the well opening with cement. BP officials gave the procedure a 60 to 70 percent chance of success. Untested before under the ocean's surface, "Top kill" failed.

Junk shot: Part of the top kill method that involved shooting solid material -- like rubber balls -- into the breach. BP hoped that the "junk shot" would plug up the pipe enough to contain the drilling fluid from flowing out into the ocean. It, too, failed.

Lower marine riser package cap (LMRP) containment system: An even smaller top hat. Even if this is successful, it will temporarily increase the flow of oil by 20 percent. That's at least 100,000 gallons more a day.

Cut and cap: Part of the lower marine riser package that calls for an undersea remote-controlled robot to use a diamond wire cutter to slice off the damaged riser pipe at the top of the failed blow-out preventer. Then, engineers plan to place a custom fit cap over the well stub. The procedure is ongoing.