BP close to completing 'bottom kill' of oilwell

THE flow of oil that poured into the Gulf of Mexico for more than 12 weeks has been forced back underground and BP engineers expect to spend this week drilling the final leg of a relief well to complete the "bottom kill" designed to permanently seal the leak.

BP and the US government have said for months that intersecting the blown-out well and filling it with mud and cement is the ultimate solution to making sure it never spews crude into the ocean again.

The oil is already back at its source, thanks to the "static kill," which involved thousands of gallons of mud and cement being poured last week through a cap that had been keeping the crude out of the water since 15 July. The cement cap poured on top of the oil hardened enough over the weekend so engineers could begin digging the final 100ft of the well again, according to BP.

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No-one at BP or with the US government has been willing to declare victory over the spill before the relief well is finished, but retired coastguard Thad Allen, who is overseeing the clean-up operation for Washington, said there is virtually no chance the oil will leak again.

An estimated 207 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded off Louisiana on 20 April.

The explosion killed 11 workers and sent crude into delicate coastal marshes and tar balls washing on to beaches.

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