* Tests show blown well effectively sealed
* Alabama suing BP for "catastrophic" Gulf spill
* US govt weighing risks of "bottom kill" on cap
By Chris Baltimore
HOUSTON, Aug 13 BP Plc (BP.L) (BP.N) will
proceed with a relief well to kill its blown-out Gulf of Mexico
well, the top U.S. spill official said on Friday.
"Everybody is in agreement that we need to proceed with the
relief well," retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said. "The
question is how to do it."
The decision to continue with the relief well came as
Alabama announced it was suing BP for the "catastrophic harm"
that the spill had caused the state.
Earlier this week Allen had raised the possibility that the
relief well might not be necessary because the cement poured
into the top of the blown Macondo well last week -- the
so-called "static kill" -- might have permanently killed it.
But after running pressure tests, BP and U.S. officials
agree that the relief well is needed to plug the well 13,000
feet (4,000 metres) beneath the seabed, Allen said. The relief
well is only about 45 feet (13.7 meters) from reaching the
"The relief well will be finished," Allen said. "We will
kill the well."
For full spill coverage link.reuters.com/hed87k
Special report on new BP CEO Dudley [ID:nN29102489]
Graphic on relief well link.reuters.com/qam39k
Political risk factbox on the U.S. [ID:nN02255831]
The Macondo well, a mile (1.6 km) down in the Gulf of
Mexico, blew out April 20 and began spewing oil in what has
become the worst offshore oilspill in history.
The well was provisionally capped on July 15 after spewing
an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf, soiling
marshlands, fisheries and tourist beaches along several
hundreds of miles (kilometers) of the Gulf Coast.
The British energy giant has lost more than a third of its
market value since the explosion and has set aside $32.2
billion to deal with clean-up costs.
BP faces hundreds of civil lawsuits from injured rig
workers, fishermen, investors and property owners seeking to
recoup losses. Alabama added to that pile by with its suit
against BP and other companies for what Attorney General Troy
King said was "catastrophic harm." [ID:nN13196626]
"We are suing them for the amount it will take to make
Alabama whole," King said.
The suit, which did not set a damage figure, accuses the
defendants of "negligent or wanton failure to adhere to
recognized industry standards of care."
The spill has hurt fishing and tourism around the Gulf and
has affected other sectors such as housing. People and
businesses that have sustained losses can make claims against
the BP compensation fund administered by Kenneth Feinberg,
named by the White House as an independent overseer.
But King said Feinberg was undermining efforts by Gulf
state attorneys general to make it possible for spill victims
to claim damages from the fund while retaining the right to sue
BP at a future date.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who has faced criticism for
being slow to act in the face of the world's worst offshore oil
spill, will vacation in Panama City, Florida, this weekend and
make a public statement on the recovery effort on Saturday.
In Louisiana, the state hit hardest by the spill, U.S. and
BP officials met with parish presidents and Gov. Bobby Jindal
to discuss long-term recovery plans.
The U.S. government will enact an ocean monitoring system
to detect underwater plumes of oil that could be harming
undersea ecosystems, Allen said.
Meanwhile, top-level BP and U.S. officials including Energy
Secretary Steven Chu and incoming BP chief executive Bob Dudley
on Friday discussed how to proceed with the final well plug,
Pressure tests completed late on Thursday showed that the
well is effectively sealed, with "no communication with the
reservoir," Allen said.
But engineers are worried that increased pressure from the
the "bottom kill" could damage the existing temporary cement
plug and perhaps cause about 1,000 barrels of oil trapped in
the well shaft to flow into the ocean, Allen said. Engineers
are developing procedures to allay such concerns, he said.
After Allen gives the order to continue with the relief
well, it will take about 96 hours to drill into the Macondo
well shaft and perhaps days beyond that to complete the job, he
(Additional reporting by Anna Driver in Houston, Verna Gates
in Birmingham, Alabama, and Matt Bigg in Atlanta; Editing by