HOUSTON, June 28 (UPI) -- The lack of experience with drilling relief wells in deep-water exploration suggests oil could gush into the Gulf of Mexico well beyond August, officials warn.
British oil company BP is scrambling to drill two relief wells to stop oil spilling from the Macondo well about 1 mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.
Oil has gushed into the Gulf of Mexico since an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform.
BP engineers are working to tap into a steel casing of the Macondo well that is about 6 inches wide. Guy LeBas, an energy strategist at Janney Capital Markets, told the Financial Times that BP has its work cut out for it at Macondo.
"Drilling a well thousands of feet into rock to hit a target no more than 6 inches wide isn't exactly a sure thing," he said. "There remains a risk that the leak could continue past August."
BP said the relief well may be the only way to stop the leak. A containment cap over the leaking well is capturing some of the oil, though plumes continue to seep into the gulf.
It took five attempts for engineers to stop a similar leak in Australia in 2009. Kent Wells, senior vice president of exploration and production at BP, said, however, that the relief well was going as planned.