BP: Gulf relief well on target for mid-August

NEW ORLEANS According to spokesman Bill Salvin, the crew drilling the first of two wells ran a procedure this week to confirm it is on the correct path.

"The layman's translation is, 'We are where we thought we were." Salvin adds the relief well should be done by mid-August

Several tests are needed to determine the relief well's location relative to the well that blew out April 20 when the offshore drilling rig /*Deepwater Horizon*/ exploded. Once the new well intersects the blown-out one, /*BP*/ plans to pump heavy drilling mud in to stop the oil flow and plug it with cement.

Meanwhile, officials kept a wary eye on an area of low-pressure in the Caribbean that threatened to turn into the first /*tropical depression*/ of the Atlantic season.

Lt. Cmdr. Dave Roberts, a Navy hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center, said an Air Force reconnaissance plane was on its way to investigate the system Friday and would likely know later in the day whether it will develop further.

BP would need about five days to move all of its equipment out of harm's way if a storm threatens, Salvin said. So far, the company hasn't started that process.

The equipment to be secured would include ships working to process oil being sucked to the surface from a containment device and the rigs drilling the two relief wells.

The first well, started May 2, reached a depth of 16,275 feet on Wednesday before workers paused for the first test known as a ranging run. Although the first relief well is only 200 feet laterally from the original well, the crew still has to drill around 3,000 feet deeper before it can intercept the original well, according to Salvin.

Worst-case government estimates say about 2.5 million gallons are leaking from the well, though no one really knows for sure.

/*Vice President Joe Biden*/ will head to the Gulf on Tuesday to visit a command center in New Orleans and the Florida Panhandle, where a section of a popular beach was closed because large pools of oil washed up, according to /*Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen*/.

Latest Developments:

  • BP shares fell sharply in London on Friday following the company's announcement that the cost of responding to the Gulf of Mexico oil leak has risen to $2.35 billion. The share price dipped as low as 296.6 pence ($4.42) during morning trading, an 8.9 percent drop and the lowest for BP since August 1996.
  • The federal judge who struck down the /*Obama*/ administration's six-month ban on deep-water drilling in the Gulf refused to hold off his ruling while the government appeals. And environmental groups asked the court to release more information about his holdings in oil-related stocks.
  • More dirty evidence of the massive oil spill washed ashore along the /*Gulf Coast*/ for residents who don't need any more reminders of their frustration over failed efforts to stop the crude gushing from a blown-out undersea well. In Florida, officials on Thursday closed a quarter-mile stretch of /*Pensacola Beach*/ not far from the Alabama line when thick pools of oil washed up, the first time a beach in the state has been shut because of the spill. A large patch of oil oozed into Mississippi Sound, the fertile waters between the barrier islands and mainland of a state that has mostly been spared.
  • The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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