WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Drilling a relief well to cap the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will take about 90 days “if we’re lucky,” the head of the U.S. Coast Guard said on Monday.
Such an operation, at about 18,000 feet below the surface, is the only real solution to relieve the pressure and cap the existing well, Admiral Thad Allen, the commandant, told a conference organized by the Navy League.
“That will be about 90 days if we’re lucky,” he said.
Meantime, an unprecedented effort has begun to pump oil dispersants down to the source of the leaks of the blown out well owned by BP Plc, rather than just use them at the surface, Allen said.
This appeared to have been successful in dispersing oil before it rises to the surface, he said. If subsequent testing bears out this finding, “we’ll try to go full speed at the source of the leaks,” Allen added.
But he said the ultimate solution hinged on the planned relief well parallel to the existing well.
Coastline from Louisiana to Florida is threatened by the slick.
Reporting by Jim Wolf; Editing by Tim Dobbyn