That’s what BP reported early Wednesday morning, in what the company called a “significant milestone.” BP stopped pumping heavy mud into the blown well around eight hours after beginning on Tuesday afternoon, saying that the procedure had achieved its “desired outcome.” Here’s part of the press release from BP:
The well is now being monitored, per the agreed procedure, to ensure it remains static. Further pumping of mud may or may not be required depending on results observed during monitoring.
The start of the static kill was based on the results of an injectivity test, which immediately preceded the static kill and lasted about two hours.
That doesn’t mean things are over—BP vice president Kent Wells told reporters yesterday that he wasn’t sure if mud alone would be enough to fully plug the well. But the fact that BP was able pump drilling mud into the well—at the weight of about 13.2 lbs. per gallon—means that its physical structure is likely still in good condition. And that should clear the way for the relief well, still set to be completed by mid-August. Most importantly, though, more than 100 days after the Deepwater Horizon exploded, it’s hard to imagine oil flowing from BP’s well again.
And it may turn out that the 4.9 million barrels of oil that did spill from BP’s well may leave less of a mark on the Gulf than first expected. According to the New York Times, the government is expected to announce today that nearly three-quarters of the oil has already evaporated, dispersed, been skimmed or burned—and that what’s left isn’t likely to do further damage, as White House energy czar Carol Browner told NBC’s Today show this morning:
The oil was captured. It was skimmed. It was burned. It was contained. Mother Nature did her part. And that’s good news.
According to the government’s report, a full quarter of the oil dispersed on the surface of the Gulf or dissolved in seawater, and another 16% dispersed naturally as the oil gushed out of the well. The actual cleanup played a smaller role—5% of the oil was removed in controlled burns, and 8% was broken up using chemical dispersants. The warm Gulf ecosystem—accustomed to breaking down oil—was the more significant factor.
That still leaves about 26% of the oil either in the water, buried on the sand or on the shoreline. It’s still not clear what the longer-term environmental damage will be—especially beneath the Gulf, where any impacts would be far less visible than on the shore. The government has been wrong about the oil before—like BP, it consistently underestimated the full size of the spill—and we’ll need more confirmation from outside scientists before we truly dismiss the effects of the spill. But right now, the future of the Gulf is looking a lot brighter than it did a few weeks ago.