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BP: Focus is on killing well, not future drilling in Gulf

By the CNN Wire Staff
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BP oil clean up 'still substantial'
  • BP vows to share what it has learned dealing with the Gulf oil gusher
  • With the "static kill" complete, BP will resume drilling the relief well
  • The relief well and "bottom kill" efforts are intended to guarantee the well won't leak
  • BP says it's not focusing on new drilling in the reservoir

(CNN) -- A BP official on Friday talked about the possibility of resuming drilling at the site of the Gulf oil disaster, but the company clarified his remarks.

"Clearly there's lots of oil and gas here, and we'll have to think about what to do with that at some point," BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said Friday.

"But what we've always stated is that the original well -- the well that had the blowout -- will be abandoned, and that's what we're doing."

Later Friday evening, BP issued a statement, saying the focus right now is on killing the well and recovery, not future drilling in the reservoir.

"As Mr. Suttles made clear this morning, BP's present focus is entirely on the response effort in the Gulf of Mexico and the future use of the reservoir is not currently under consideration," the company said in a statement.

The Obama administration has issued a moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of California until as late as November 30.

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According to a statement from the Interior Department, a temporary deepwater drilling pause will provide time for operators to demonstrate "that they have the ability to respond effectively to a potential oil spill in the Gulf, given the unprecedented commitment of available oil spill response resources that are now being dedicated to the BP oil spill."

It will also allow for an assessment of "strategies and methods" in the event of another deepwater rig blowout.

BP officials say they've learned from the disaster and will share that knowledge with other oil companies and authorities around the world.

"The one thing we're very committed on is to make sure something like this never happens again," said Kent Wells, the company's senior vice president. "We've learned things along the way that caused us to do things differently as we progressed."

Wells has devoted a lot of time explaining to reporters the technicalities of the company's long-running effort to end the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

But in a briefing on Friday, he also took a long view.

"What we will do when this is done -- and I want to stress we're not done yet -- we will go back and make sure we've learned everything and what we can do to avoid this from happening," he said. "And if it ever did happen, how would things be done even better than we've been able to do it -- that will be something we will share very widely."

"We want to make sure the whole industry is a better place, and we will share that around the world as well."

The BP executive said the company already has talked about that with Michael Bromwich, who was selected in June by President Obama to head the newly created Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

The agency replaced the Minerals Management Service, which was heavily criticized for lax management in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in April that led to the disastrous oil spill.

BP is set to resume drilling a relief well Sunday to permanently seal its ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico.

Wells spoke as BP conducted pressure tests to check the seal on the well after pumping cement into it Thursday as part of a complex operation known as a "static kill."

Five hundred barrels of cement were pumped into the well from a ship Thursday, on top of 2,300 barrels of heavy drilling mud pumped Tuesday. The process sent oil in the well back down into the reservoir.

BP and U.S. officials expressed confidence that the operation will prevent any more oil from leaking. But the federal official overseeing the effort, retired Adm. Thad Allen, instructed BP to proceed with a second well-killing effort known as a "bottom kill," by sending more mud and cement through a relief well that has long been in the works.

That would further safeguard the well from leaks, experts say.

The relief well is about 100 feet from the crippled well, and Wells said drilling should resume Sunday night. It will be performed intermittently, alternating with "ranging runs" in which electrical current is used to check on location.

BP expects the relief well will intersect the main well between August 13 and 15.

The drilling of a second relief well as a backup has been suspended, according to officials.

A tight-fitting cap BP placed on the runaway well in mid-July temporarily sealed the well, ending three months of relentless oil flow.

Before that, however, BP's numerous efforts to seal the well failed. The efforts were accompanied by a litany of nicknames -- such as "top kill" and "junk shot" -- all while underwater cameras showed huge volumes of oil billowing into the murky water.

After the well is killed once and for all, BP plans to retrieve the failed blowout preventer that contributed to the disaster, according to Wells.

Of course, the knowledge BP has to share may interest other parties, besides other oil companies.

The Coast Guard wants to know more about the cause of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Lawyers representing the 11 workers who were killed are seeking millions of dollars in damages and the FBI is conducting a criminal investigation.

Saturday marks the 110th day since the blowout preventer failed, following the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon that sank the rig and killed 11 workers.

Federal scientists said this week nearly 5 million barrels of oil gushed from the well before it was brought under control. Of that, about 800,000 barrels were captured by surface ships. The rest spilled into the Gulf.

They said about a fourth of the oil that poured into the water remains there in the form of sheen or tar balls.

The rest has been burned on the surface, collected by skimmers, broken up by dispersants or evaporated.

The federal on-scene coordinator in the Gulf, Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft, said this week he expects to see tar balls washing up on shore for months if not years.

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