Crews hoped to begin pumping mud and perhaps cement down the throat of the blown-out oil well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday in what BP officials said could be the method of attack that finally snuffs the spill.
Engineers planned to probe the busted blowout preventer with an oil-like liquid to determine whether it could handle the static kill. If the test is successful, they plan to spend Tuesday through Thursday pumping the heavy mud down the well.
The so-called "static kill" is meant as insurance for the crews who have spent months fighting the oil spill. The only thing keeping oil from blowing into the Gulf at the moment is an experimental cap that has held for more than two weeks but was never meant to be permanent.
BP officials had insisted for months that a pair of costly relief wells were the only surefire way to kill the oil leak but said Monday that the static kill alone - involving lines running from a ship to the blown-out well a mile below - might do the trick.
BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells said that if the static kill is successful, the relief wells may not be needed to do the same thing weeks later, but from the bottom. The primary relief well, near completion, will still be finished and could be used simply to ensure the leak is plugged, he said.