BP could decide later Wednesday whether to pump cement into its blown-out Gulf of Mexico oil well from the top and begin plugging the leak for good, a company executive said.
Kent Wells, BP's senior vice president of exploration and production, told reporters at a briefing a decision on whether to begin pumping the cement was under discussion after a "static kill" appeared to have sufficiently pushed oil in the ruptured Macondo well back toward the reservoir more than 2.4 miles beneath the seabed.
The next step is for BP and U.S. scientists to decide whether to pump in cement from the top or wait until they can do it from the bottom with a relief well.
"We want to make sure that it's permanently sealed with cement," Wells said.
On Tuesday BP pumped 2,300 barrels of heavy drilling mud into the capped Macondo well to smother the oil.
A top-down cement job won't render the relief well unnecessary, BP officials and retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the top U.S. official overseeing the spill response, agree. Both say the relief well will still bore into the Macondo well to make sure the job is done.
"The static kill is only the preliminary portion of what will ultimately be the bottom kill," Allen said earlier Wednesday at a White House briefing.