Last updated: August 6, 2010 1:16 am

Cement finally seals BP’s Macondo oil well

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BP on Thursday finished pumping cement into the top of the Macondo well after the US government ordered that nothing be left to chance in ending the world’s biggest offshore oil spill.

The well did not leak Wednesday when BP pumped heavy drilling mud into it that forced oil back down into the reservoir under the ocean floor.

US government scientists estimate the well gushed 4.9m barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico after it ruptured on April 20, killing 11 workers and injuring 17.

Admiral Thad Allen, the national incident commander, said the well would not be considered permanently killed until a relief well was completed later this month. The relief well will pump cement into the bottom of the well to ensure it is sealed at both ends.

Cementing the well from the top is aimed at reducing risks and providing clues to the condition of the well.

It also means the well will have a permanent seal in place until the relief well can be completed. “This is not the end but it will virtually assure us there is no chance of oil leaking into the environment,’’ Admiral Allen said.

Cementing from the bottom is still days off, since the cement being pumped in this week needs time to harden. Then the relief well must be drilled another 100 feet to the point of intersection.

Analysts said cementing from the top and bottom demonstrated an abundance of caution and was possibly unnecessary, since the mud had pushed all oil back down into the reservoir and is so heavy even a passing storm would not enable the well to flow again.

“For all ... purposes, the well is killed as of now,’’ said Raoul LeBlanc, senior director at PFC Energy, the consultancy. “There is no danger of a blowout and no real chance of more leakage into the gulf.’’

The disaster is not over for BP, given clean-up operations and litigation. The skimming vessels that had been hovering around the spill site would now be brought closer to shore, with areas of particular focus being offshore Alabama and Florida.

“We are committed to finishing this clean-up and holding BP accountable,’’ Admiral Allen said.

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