BP says it might drill again in spill reservoir

NEW ORLEANS The vast /*oil reservoir*/ beneath the blown well is still believed to hold nearly $4 billion worth of crude.

"There's lots of oil and gas here," /*Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles*/ said at a news briefing. "We're going to have to think about what to do with that at some point."

With the oil giant and its partners facing tens of billions of dollars in liabilities, the incentive to exploit the wells and the reservoir could grow.

According to retired /*Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen*/, the government's point man on the spill, he has no information on BP's future plans.

Meanwhile, BP appears to be gaining the upper hand on plugging the leak, triggered when an oil rig exploded off /*Louisiana*/ on April 20, killing 11 workers and triggering the massive spill.

On Thursday, engineers poured in cement to complete a plug at the top of the well bore as part of a process dubbed a "static kill," but they needed to wait at least a day for it to harden.

Once it does, crews can finish the last stretch of a relief well intersecting the blown well just above the oil's source, injecting more mud and cement from the bottom to form a final plug.

Suttles confirmed Friday that crews for now plan to use the 18,000-foot relief well to seal off with mud and cement the underground reservoir feeding the blown well.

The company had been hedging on how exactly it would use the relief well. If not used for the bottom kill, the relief wells could have conceivably offered a way for BP or another company to pump oil from the reservoir and sell it.

Latest Developments:

  • A federal report this week indicated that only about a quarter of the spilled crude remains in the Gulf and is degrading quickly.
  • Some scientists disputed the report's veracity, and much of the remaining crude has permeated deep into marshes and wetlands, complicating cleanup.
  • Taxpayers took another hit, this one indirect, from the oil spill caused by the /*Deepwater Horizon*/ rig explosion through insurance claims related to the disaster.
  • AIG, the insurance giant that is 80 percent owned by the government, said it paid approximately $23 million in claims following the spill in the Gulf in the second quarter, and expects to pay more.
  • Shares of Anadarko, BP's partner in the blown-out well, and Transocean, which leased BP the ill-fated rig Deepwater Horizon, rose sharply this week. Both indicated they're coping with the consequences of the spill. And they remain firm that BP should bear the brunt of the total costs.
  • With drilling banned for now in the Gulf, Anadarko is producing more oil and natural gas onshore. /*Transocean*/, which has 13 rigs contracted out in the Gulf, is working to retain customers while eyeing more business in international waters. And Halliburton, the services company that was responsible for encasing the BP well in cement, is bringing in lots of revenue from its services outside the Gulf.
  • Investors in these companies saw billions in market value disappear. Many have bailed; some sued. Those who held shares or bought some recently have witnessed rebounds of as much as 65 percent.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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