BP's 'top kill' is successfully plugging oil leak

Oil streaks into the Gulf of Mexico near Brush Island, La.

BP is attempting a procedure called 'top kill,' which involves pumping mud into the leaking well hole to clog it and prevent more oil and gas from leaking into the Gulf. Oil and gas have been pouring out from the broken well for more than five weeks, after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, sunk, and set off the ensuing disaster.

BP said this morning that the procedure is successfully stopping the oil, according to top oil spill commander Admiral Thad Allen.

According to Allen, the effort has pumped enough drilling fluid to block all oil and gas from the well, which is releasing low but persistent pressure. A second ship of fluid, or "mud" to plug the leak, is on its way to continue the work. Allen was encouraged by the progress, telling the Tribune: "we'll get this under control."

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is expected to announce a six-month moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling, which began shortly after the BP spill. A presidential commission will then spend time reviewing the current spill. Also, exploration off the coast of Alaska, in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas will be delayed pending a review. Pending lease sales off the Virginia coast and in the Western Gulf will be canceled. Shell Oil was supposed to begin exploratory drilling in the Arctic this summer, and the company has leases to drill in wells up to 140 miles offshore, but the drilling delay could put those wells may be off limits until further notice. Obama will allow permits to continue to be issued for shallow-water drilling.

Oil leak clean-up efforts slow

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and other officials are voicing frustration over the Administration's current Gulf efforts. The Louisiana Coast Guard says it takes about three days to get necessary equipment -- from booms that prevent oil damage to spare tires -- and that the lag is slowing down the clean-up process.

Sources vary on the amount of oil that has leaked into the Gulf of Mexico so far. BP and the U.S. government have marked the flow rate at around 210,000 gallons per day, while some scientists say the rate could be more than twice that number.

EPA concerned about chemical use to stop oil leak

Chicago-based chemical maker Nalco is set to ramp up production of Corexit, the chemical being used to disperse the oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The Environmental Protection Agency worries the chemical is toxic, a claim which Nalco denies. "We feel we have a safe and effective product that has a long history of proven, real world use," says Nalco spokesman Charlie Pajor. BP says there's no readily available alternative.

Demand for the chemical may drop as Obama prepares to announce a delay in offshore drilling in the Gulf, which might not have a huge impact on Nalco as Corexit accounts for only a small percentage of the company's sales, according to Pajor.

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