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CNN NEWSROOM

BP's Top Kill Fails; LMRP Next Step

Aired May 29, 2010 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HEADQUARTERS: Meantime, actually, I am being told, we're not going to go to "THE SITUATION ROOM." We've going to sit here and watch and wait this thing as we watch, as we have many, many days here.

Right now, BP considering whether it might indeed actually go forward with this top kill. We talked to Carol Costello earlier in the hour. She is now standing by live for us in Port Fourchon, Louisiana. I can see perhaps, Carol, the rain has stopped and we can finally see you, which is a good thing.

Carol, if you can just bring us up to speed. We're standing by for this thing that get under way in Robert, Louisiana. Just bring us up to speed in this top kill and what over the course of the last few hours, we might be hearing, have been hearing from both BP and Coast Guard?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're wishing we would hear a lot more. That press conference was supposed to get under way just about now. But it was raining so hard just a short time ago. Maybe that delayed them I don't know because it was nasty. There was lightning, it was raining sideways, the wind was blowing. We, frankly, were scared. But as you can see, the weather has calmed down a bit now.

As far as the top kill procedure, a couple of hours ago, BP held an update for reporters and there was a group of us there. We asked them pointed questions about if the top kill was working. Doug Suttles, from BP, didn't really directly answer the question. He said they were assessing the situation. He couldn't even tell us whether they were still putting that thick mud into the pipe or that had been suspended. Because it's been an off and on process for scientific reasons and engineering purposes, but he said he would update us again this next time, which is supposed to take place right now.

As far as, I asked him pointedly, I said can you at least tell us if the situation is better than it was yesterday. And this is how he answered that question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOUG SUTTLES, COO, BRITISH PETROLEUM: To date it hasn't just stopped the flow. That's what I do know. What I don't know is if it ultimately will or not. As I said, we're just going to keep at this until we believe we see it work or we believe it won't work and we'll move to the next option. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Now in fairness to BP it has always said it would take them a couple of days to figure out whether this top kill process was working. But, as you know, Brooke, it has been a couple of days and everybody here in Louisiana is eager to know, please tell us, is this working? Do you have to go to a plan B. Suttles did mention plan B. And he did say that they were already preparing for it in case this top kill procedure didn't work, they could get right on plan B. So we're anxiously awaiting new word from BP early this evening.

BALDWIN: As I sit here, Carol, and just keep you right there, I know that plan B, according to our CNN wire, might be this lower marine riser package, they were be placing this custom built cap over the leak. Then they are saying if that doesn't work they have like plan C. That being perhaps bringing in a second BOP, or blowout preventer.

Let me ask you, Carol, I don't know I think you have been down there for at least 24 hours. What's the sense you're getting, perhaps, in talking to people? It seems to me the anger toward BP is really ratcheted up.

COSTELLO: I think that would be an understatement, Brooke. I think people are just afraid their beaches are going to be sullied and their way of life destroyed. You go to Grand Isle, Louisiana, which is just a distance from here. And you tar balls washing up on the beach and people clean them up and more come onshore. You look in the water and you can see this faint sheen and it looks like salad dressing on top of the water. You don't know exactly what it is and therein lies the problem.

I was talking to some fishermen yesterday and they said they see substances on top of the water, they don't know what it is. Is it oily residue or the dispersant that BP is using to dissolve the oil? They just don't know. In fact, I talked to one fisherman got sick from breathing in the fumes from something, but he doesn't know what it was. It just smelled sickly sweet. And he's been dizzy ever since. He's been to the doctor three times. Nobody can tell him what's wrong. I think that's why the anger is building, there's so many unanswered questions.

BALDWIN: Yeah, I think it's interesting the point, Carol, with the tar balls, we've been reporting these tar balls washing up on different shores. It doesn't necessarily mean it's the oil coming from the oil spill but a lot of people are concluding that we saw President Obama picking up at Grand Isle, as you mentioned, most definitely connected.

Let me ask you, staying on the Grand Isle idea, there's all this controversy if you can just explain over the last 24 hours because it was Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts who is essentially accusing BP of shipping hundreds of workers, I believe he called it more or less a dog and pony show, to be there when the president was there. But Donald Nolte with the Environmental Safety and Health and also BP COO Doug Suttles saying that's not the case, we didn't bring these people just in for the president. They will be back out on Saturday. You're there on Saturday. Have you seen these additional workers?

COSTELLO: I actually did see the additional workers. They were in big yellow school buses this morning, they were preparing to get onto those bus, little outfits, red t-shirt, blue t-shirts and had the white plastic pants on. They were on their way to the beaches of Grand Isle with their rakes and their bags, and they were picking up these tar balls.

We tried to talk to the people in charge, but again, they would not talk to the press or tell us where they were from, or what they were doing. But we did manage to pull one guy off to the side, Antwan, to a secret location, so the people in charge wouldn't notice. This is what Antwan (ph)told us about the operation this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTWAN COURTNEY, CLEAN UP WORKER: They called us back around 11:52, when I received the call. And I didn't get to leave out of my house until 1:00. And I thought maybe if they knew they were going to dispatch out, they had have told us in the class we should be prepared to leave that evening, you know. And they woke me up out the middle of my sleep and asked me to be here for 3:00 o'clock in the morning. And it's like, it's just hectic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Now classes he was talking about, Brooke, BP has hired a company to teach these people how to deal with hazardous materials, and those classes have been ongoing and Antwan was a part of those classes. But this morning suddenly they woke him up very early, as you heard, he got on the bus and went to Grand Isle. But then he was just about to go and do his thing when he decided it just wasn't worth because he wasn't being paid enough, so he quit.

BP did address that situation a couple of hours ago again, they said it's appalling anyone would question their motives because they've been hiring hundreds of people to clean the beaches, and try to prevent the oil coming onshore. It's an ongoing process. Doug Suttles saying today, they ratcheted that up and there will be hundreds more soon, doing all of those things to keep the oil from washing up here on Grand Isle.

BALDWIN: I think, Carol, it's very easy to sit there and point the finger at BP, but they're saying, no, as you said, they did not bring in the additional workers. And I'm sure we'll be hearing him reiterate that message momentarily here.

Carol, if you can, can you just stand by for me, because I'm going to bring in a professor to sort of dissect the mechanics of this top kill. But stand by for me because you provide such a wonderful perspective there on the ground.

Again, I just want to remind our viewers here, we're sitting here, watching and waiting that empty podium, hopefully we'll start to see some action behind it momentarily. Who are we waiting for? Let me tell you. We're waiting for U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry, we're waiting for BP, we were just mentioning, BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles, MMS Regional Supervisor for Field Operations Mike Saucier and NOAA Scientific Support Coordinator Charlie Henry. They will hopefully give us a better update and perhaps even give a definitive answer to how the top kill is going.

To talk more about it, I want to bring in Eric Smith, who was good enough to join us by phone on his Memorial Day weekend here. Eric Smith is a professor at Tulane University and an associate director at the school's Energy Institute.

Oh, Eric, there you are. Eric --

ERIC SMITH, PROF. TULANE UNIVERSITY: Here I am.

BALDWIN: Hello to you.

There are growing doubts as to whether the top kill is working. From your best estimate and your perch of expertise, what do you think?

SMITH: Well, I mean we're all looking at the same picture. Which shows a lot of dark material coming out of the vent, and I would suggest that probably it isn't working. That they will be discussing the next stages in the process here, which will involve either capping it or putting the BOP stack on, that's just speculation, but that's what I think.

BALDWIN: As we sit here and look at these pictures, if you can, just explain to me, what specifically are we looking at? Are we looking at the hydrocarbons, which is I guess the gas in the oil mixture? Or are we looking at possibly at some of the mud? Walk me through if you're sitting in front of a monitor, these pictures?

SMITH: Well, I'm actually not. But I looked at it just before they hooked me up here. I think that what you're looking at is primarily hydrocarbons. And it would appear to be primarily oil.

BALDWIN: Actually, professor, stand by for me. I want to go straight to the news conference just beginning. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Deep Water Horizon response conference call, all lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. After the speaker's remarks, there will be a question an answer session. If you would like to ask a question during this time, simply press star and the number 1 on your telephone keypad. If you would like to withdraw your question, press the pound key. Thank you.

Mr. Lieutenant Commander Robert Wyman, you may begin your conference.

LT. COM. ROB WYMAN: Good afternoon. I'm Lieutenant Commander Rob Wyman (ph), the chief of the joint information center here at Unified Area Command, in Robert, Louisiana. Apologize for the late start. We are having some heavy weather here, locally. If we loose our video feed today, we will have the audio of this press conference, available on our web site at deepwaterhorizonresponse.com. With us today is Rear Admiral Mary Landry. L-a-n-d-r-y. The federal on scene coordinator, Mr. Doug Suttles, S-u-t-t-l-e-s, BP's chief operating officer. Mr. Mike Prendergast, P-r-e-n-d-e-r-g-a- s-t, MMS's chief of staff for the Gulf of Mexico Region. And Charlie Henry, the scientific support coordinator for the Unified Area Command.

We'll begin today with opening remarks, followed by questions from members of the media here in the audience, we will then open up the phone lines for those who dialed in. At this time, just a quick review of the ground rules, if you could please silence your cell phones or turn them off. Please raise your hands so we can bring you a microphone. We'll have follow-ups so hold on to the microphone. Please provide your name and affiliation before asking your question. Thank you.

DOUG SUTTLES, BP COO: Good evening, everyone. We want to provide another update it on our activities and the first to discuss is the top kill operation. So after three full days of attempting top kill, we have been unable to overcome the flow from the well, so we now believe it's time to move on to the next of our options, which is LMRP, lower marine riser package cap. Over the last three days we pumped a total of over 30,000 barrels of mud, we've made numerous attempts to overcome the flow, we've monitored the situation after each attempt. We've also used our junk shot technique and other materials to try to divert more of the flow down the well but we have not been able to stop the flow.

After significant review with what could only be called a brain trust of engineers and scientists from BP , the industry, the Minerals Management Service, the Department of Energy, the Department of Interior and further reviews by Secretary Salazar and Secretary Chu, we have made the decision to move on to the next option.

These repeated pumping, we don't believe will likely achieve success so at this point it's time to move to the next option. So what I'd like to do is briefly describe what that is. And in the posters over here to my right provide some visual context of what we'll be describing.

The first thing we'll need to do a very complex operation because once again we're doing this in 5,000 feet of water and we're having to do all of these activities with these robotic submarine, remote operated vehicles as we call them. The first job will be to cut and remove the existing risers from the top of the LMRP. At that point, once we've made a clean cut, we will be installing the cap, which is also shown in the diagrams to my right. That cap will then be connected via a riser and drill pipe to the drill ship enterprise, the same rig we used for the riser insertion tool. And this operation should be able to capture most of the oil, I want to stress the word "most" because it's not a tight mechanical seal but it should be able to capture most of the oil.

This job should take approximately four days but it could take longer. As you've seen many times, these operations at this depth and without the ability to use human beings at depth are quite complex. And they've never been done before in this environment. We're confident the job will work but obviously we cannot guarantee success at this time.

In parallel we continue work on our relief wells, the DD3 rig drilling the first relief well is now just over 12,000 feet as measured from just above the surface of the sea, it's about to run its next string of casing, this job going had well, it's ahead of plan. The DD2 rig is also standing there and prepared to continue drilling its next well.

I would also like to talk about our activities offshore and onshore. As I previously described today, I took an extensive flyover, predominantly over the western area of our activity, I'm very pleased to say the amount of oil on the surface of the sea continues to be reduced, this is a credit to the men and women fighting this offshore, and the amount of equipment and resources we're deploying to that activity.

In addition, the usage subsea disperse ants, burning, and skimming is making a difference. I also met with beach cleanup crews, at Fourchon this afternoon. They were cleaning one of the more heavily area beaches, which was oiled almost two weeks ago. , I can report they're making great progress. They're doing a tremendous job. Anybody who has been outside in the Louisiana sunshine knows how difficult that work could be.

We continue work on our forward operating bases, as I've described previously, our focus at the moment is to bring the people closer to the front so we minimize travel time, and increase the timeliness and effectiveness of our cleaning activities. We're putting flotillas in place, tent cities and other things trying to move a total of 2,200 people closer to the front lines so we can increase our effectiveness and timeliness of our cleanup.

I will had also mention we've been working on tools with the government agencies as to how we can better spot this oil that's moved away from the well area and is in small patches and much more difficult for tools like skimming to achieve success. The poster to my left here is a good example of this. We've been doing aerial photography over the area and using the National Geospatial Agency to process that data. We can now locate these small patches of oil, find them on a map and dispatch our skimming equipment to these.

This should be a significant breakthrough for us. These photographs also give you some sense of what it looks like offshore where we don't have continuous oil, but we have these bands or patches which are widely dispersed and have been very difficult to locate. With this new equipment and technique, we believe we'll be more effective at locating this oil offshore where we can attack it.

With that, I'll hand it over to Admiral Landry.

REAR ADM. MARY LANDRY, U.S. COAST GUARD: Thank you. Thank you, Doug.

Obviously, we're very disappointed in today's announcement. And I know all of you are anxious to see this well secured. It's been our number one goal since day one, but we also want to assure you we've had a very, very aggressive response posture. And we're going to continue to do that we've positioned resources around the Gulf Coast. We're obviously right on the front lines in Louisiana fighting as the oil reaches the shore, but it is a tribute to everybody who has been working on this since day one, that we only have 107 miles of shoreline oiled right now and approximately 30 acres of marsh. We will continue to fight this fight, but the challenge is always the weather, we're always reminded that we're going to into hurricane season.

So we will continue in a very, very aggressive response posture. I actually met with the new commandant of the Coast Guard today and he visited us and assured me the Coast Guard will have all the resources we need.

There's no silver bullet to stop this leak. You can tell from what you've listened to day after day, there's tremendous brain power and tremendous people, hardworking people behind the scenes trying to find a solution and actually secure the well. But we also want to manage your expectation that is so dynamic and complex and so novel in a lot of ways that we are going to have time where is we might give you-we are estimating the next phase is four days, I said four to seven day, because you just run into delays, or you run into challenges, or you decide to re-engineer something. And we have folks in the command post right alongside BP and the team to make sure we move as effectively and efficiently as possible, but also safely and soundly because we have a very, very important ecosystem we are trying to protect and way of life along the Gulf Coast.

We have directed BP to move forward in the next attempt to stop the well, the flow of oil and this through the LMRP. We have just have to remind you, we've been at this since day one and we haven't secured the source, so we really do apply the tools in the tool kit and try to be as aggressive and innovate as possible in keeping the oil offshore. Obviously the sub sea injection of dispersants has been very successful. I know people are very anxious about that. I want to assure you NOAA has brought in tremendous resources to do ocean sampling, ocean monitoring and we'll be transparent with all that information. We've also got seafood sampling that's begun. EPA is beefing up their air and water monitoring. We're working with the State of Louisiana. We stay in touch with the governors of the Gulf Coast states, and these private sector entities because everybody is affected by this. We're really trying to minimize the economic and environmental impact. And we are trying to work with everyone who's under a lot of stress and feels the pressure and a lot of challenges with this situation.

So we'll do our best to support you through this and to work together. We will continue as I say, when you think about the volume that's been spilled already, and you look at how much has reached the shore, we really were have done a tremendous amount of good work fighting this as far offshore as possible. We'll continue to keep that as our charge and we are also doing good work along the coast line, I want to give you good statistics to give you a sense that the efforts by BP and other agencies, an certainly by the Coast Guard to double and triple up our resource are having a good effect.

For example, the Southwest inner sand bar reported 80 percent completion of cleanup. Now, we'll be staying there, because you can have re-oiling, but we're really trying to fight this oil near shore, and we are going to continue to do that. But we had 80 percent completion of cleaning there.

Redfish Bay, Pass-a-Loutre, this is the precious marsh area, that is so important to everybody. We have approximately 50 percent and over 37 barrels of oily water collected in the last five days. So I think we've done a real good job in the marsh area, and we're working with the state and parishes to make sure we don't impact and work side by side with them to ensure we treat the marshes carefully. Fourchon Beach, east of Bell Pass, approximately 90 percent completion, and we are going to continue to work to be there, should it be re-oiled. The Chandelier Islands, those remain a very interesting challenge, just by remoteness and what you can do along those islands. And we continue to deploy boom and recover solid oil from the shoreline there.

And then we have 60 percent completion of Brush Island; 100 percent completion of Marsh Island. These are all very remote areas and barrier islands, but we have the resources in place and we'll ensure that we continue to fight that fight. It's also important to understand that we will watch the weather carefully, we will watch the dynamics and we are working with all the Gulf Coast states to continue to minimize the economic and environmental impact. We'll be happy to take questions, I don't know that anybody else is going to make remarks.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: David Mattingly from CNN.

All along we've been told that this was the top kill was your first choice because it had your highest chance of success and carried the fewest risks. What are your chances of success as you move forward now? And what are the risks that you are encountering that you did not have before? Also, how soon do you plan to install the second blowout preventer?

SUTTLES: Well, if you go back to the very beginning, of course, our first attempts to stop the flow were with trying to activate or somehow use the existing blowout preventer. That was the place we began more than a month ago. Around of course in parallel we're working numerous options, so it's not accurate to say that was ever attached as our most likely or best chance of success, it was the next option, an option we felt was the next one to pursue based on the information we had. And I think the chance of success we gave it was somewhere around 60 to 70 percent.

Obviously we didn't know. So I think that what we've done is given this thing every chance to succeed. We've gone at this for more than three full days. Made multiple attempts, as I said, probably had the best and brightest in the industry and government working to assess whether we should continue, because that is an option, it was an option, or whether we should move on. Based on all of the analysis and consultation with those experts, the view is it's now time to move to the LMRP cap. LANDRY: I think we should remind, everyone, we've been at this I think we're into day 40 now. The first few weeks were spent on trying to intervene on the existing BOP, there was a lot of work done on that with valves and repairs and everything, so it was at least three weeks that we tried that before moving on to top kill. So it's been a series of -- it's a little bit of a roller coaster ride for everyone as we go through this, and we try to stay steady state, hand at the till. Obviously, we've said we've had to prepare for a worst-case scenario since day one, that this could fail totally and release a tremendous amount more than it is releasing now. And the real solution is, the end stage, is a relief well. It's never been top kill or BOP. A relief swell is what we really need to get to.

MATTINGLY: Right. I understand that, but the second part of my question is, what are the risks you are encountering now that you didn't encounter with the top kill? And what are your chances of success now compared to the top kill?

SUTTLES: Yeah, no, that's a very good question. I think what we have -- what we've learned at this step is the next thing to do is to try to capture all of the flow, or as much of the flow as we can. If you recall, we used this riser insertion tube tool, what we call the RIT tool, our first attempt was the dome, and of course we had the hydrate problem. So we learned from that we had to exclude the water, but we also knew this riser insertion tool was only going to capture a pours of the flow. We believe the LMRP cap has a chance to capture a great majority of it. I don't want to say 100 percent, but a great majority of it with that design.

And while we continue to work option to stop the flow, what we need to do right now, we've said this all along, if top kill was unsuccessful, the next step in the process was what we call the LMRP cap, it's another version of what we used to call top hat and other things.

So we think this is the right step. The government agrees with us. The Secretary Salazar, Secretary Chu, the best experts agree. And that is what we need to do next while we continue to work other options that might be available to us. But in the meantime, what we've learned is that if we can capture flow at the seabed, if we can fight this thing effectively at the surface and use subsea dispersant that we can minimize the amount of oil on the surface and therefore minimize the amount of oil that gets to shore, which I think everyone agrees has to be the biggest priority.

LANDRY: Can we also assure you that as we do this sub sea injection of dispersants which will be necessary with this, we will continue extensive sampling and protocols and share that information with everybody. And I know the head of the EPA and others, Secretary, Doctor Lubchenco of NOAA, folks are collaborating constantly on the results they are getting. And there's call at ruling those results. That will continue. Because this is going to require subsea injection of dispersants-in amounts that are determinant based on how successful you are with the cap.

QUESTION: Francisco Villa Lobos (ph), from Televisa Mexico. I have a two-part question, one for the gentleman from BP, and one for Madam Admiral.

I was standing next to the president of Plaquemines Parish the moment he received the e-mail saying that the option 1 had failed and that you could see in the gentleman's face that this was basically like the wind was sucked out of his lungs, and obviously the rest of his folks of his parishes. Has BP done a in your opinion, Sir, a good enough job to convey, first of all, the sense of urgency that BP has in order to resolve this issue because I'm pretty sure this not a good PR for you guys? And also to keep them informed as to the different types of options that you have since we're doing -- we're literally reinventing the wheel here on a situation that has never been done before? In your opinion, do you think BP has done a good enough job to keep the public at ease that you guys are doing your best to fix this?

SUTTLES: Well, I think that-I can say we tried. But what I can also is that this scares everybody. The fact that we can't make this well stop flowing, or haven't succeed the in that so far. None of us want to wait until these relief wells get down to the point that that occurs. I think that even our most ardent critics have said we have to be as motivated if not more than anyone to get that stopped. And we have devoted countless resources and pulled in the best minds we can find from across the world and across government and across industry.

We've tried to tell people since the beginning that we had parallel paths, we were working multiple options in parallel because we did not know which one would be successful. Many of the things we're trying have been done on the surface but then at 5,000 feet. That is the biggest challenge we still face is executing these options down there.

I think people are disappointed in not feeling like we've given them enough information. I think they wish we could tell them more. I think what they really wish we could is make this thing stop. That's what they really want. That's what I want. That's what the entire team wants to do. And I can tell you we're going to deep at this until we either get it fully contained or fully stopped until we get this relief well down and fill this well up with cement. That's what we want to do.

QUESTION: Madam, thank you, sir. Madam Admiral, I was talking to one of the council members, also at the same parish I visited this afternoon. They were talking about they felt that the locals could contribute tremendously towards this operation simply because they know the waters, and as a former navy man myself and you as a Coast Guard, you know that local assets are tremendous when they know the waters, the currents, the way of the sea.

And I was wondering if they were going to have the possibility for them to contribute towards the cleaning efforts of these damages. And if what kind of worst-case scenario are you guys contemplating to try to keep those marshes from being completely destroyed, especially since the hurricane season is upon us? LANDRY: Well, welcome from Mexico, first of all, I met the head of your Mexican Navy Sea Mariner and visited throughout the region because we share a pollution response plan with Mexico. I'm the 8th District commander normally. I've been here for about 40 days, my chief of staff is watching the fort, but we enjoyed our visit to Mexico. We share a pollution response plan that was written based on the 1979 incident off the Mexican waters. And I welcome you here for the first time that I'm meeting you.

And certainly, we have other countries that have also assisted us. We are definitely working with Mr. Willy Nungesser from Plaquemines Parish and we have actually assigned more senior Coast Guard officers to work with him, and take the technologies he's offering, take the ideas and apply them. I know Doug has-I know BP has gone down to work side by side with him and has hired him, because he has some prior experience with pollution response.

The marshes, the important thing about the marshes, I'd like to let you know. You may not realize that our president has visited the region twice now and that all the Cabinet level secretaries have been down here several times. I just talked this morning to the EPA administrator and we are working with Dr. Lubchenco of NOAA and the Department of Interior put -- to put together a wetlands, you know, a team.

A team -- and working with -- working with the State of Louisiana and working with the folks in the parishes to put our heads together to say as we -- as we work forward, how do we protect -- how do we clean these marshes? What's the best way to do this? Keep the idea of innovative technologies.

We will try to fight this as far offshore as possible and we have a certain amount of work to do right now on the marshes and on the shoreline. But that doesn't mean we're not going try to be innovative and -- and use research and development or use new technologies or put our heads together, the power of -- the wisdom of crowds. There's a book that says put your heads together and -- and really come up with new ideas. That's what we're going to do with a team that was just discussed this morning.

So I agree with you wholeheartedly and we agree with Billy Nungesser. We should all be working together.

BEN NUCKOLS, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Ben Nuckols with "The Associated Press". At what point did you know that the top kill had failed and what specifically led you to conclude that it wasn't going to work? Is it because oil was coming up from outside the -- the casing or was there another specific thing that -- that made you realize it was never going to work?

SUTTLES: Well, the decision to actually move to the LMRP cap was just taken within about the last hour and a half because, as we've said, what we've -- what we've done is made three distinct pumping attempts, use these various materials to try to block it off and we've monitored the well and done massive amounts of diagnosis and we brought in the best minds because, as I described in -- in previous discussions, we -- we could continue this operation and the question was is would continuing it likely lead to success? And the view by I think everyone is that that's unlikely. It's not impossible, but it's unlikely.

But that decision wasn't arrived at until literally within the last 90 minutes or so, and it concluded with a conversation with Secretaries Chu and Salazar that involved some of the best and brightest people that you can put together to do this. So -- so that's how we got there. It was just recently that we got to that point and we've made the decision to move on.

NUCKOLS: Do you know whether oil is flowing up from outside the casing and is that a factor in this? Also, is -- isn't cutting off the top of the riser, which you have to do for this LMRP cap option, a very risky thing because it could cause more oil to escape?

SUTTLES: Yes, good -- both are -- both are good questions. The -- of course all of the oil is flowing up through the blowout preventer and out through the top of the well through the riser. The flow path inside the well board, below the -- below the mud line, below the surface or the -- the bottom of the ocean, we actually don't know for certain what that flow path is that could be leading to the complexity of being -- not being able to stop the flow with that technique. We don't know, though, because we can't see that. we can only take indirect measurements.

Cutting off the riser, one of the important -- one of the important pieces of information we gathered over the past 10 days or so leading up to the top kill attempt was to gather pressure data from within the blowout preventer, and that data has led us to believe that cutting off the riser should -- should not have a significant impact on the amount of oil coming out of the well. And we needed that data to know that and that's one of the reasons we believed it's a right step to go forward.

And of course we have all of the equipment in place, on the sea bed. In fact, we've been working this option in parallel. If you were watching the images being streamed out, you would have seen some of that preparation going on in parallel with the -- with the top kill operation because we're trying to move as quick as we can.

JEFF ADLESON, TIMES PICAYUNE: Jeff Adleson with "Times Picayune".

A couple of questions, you mentioned there will be oil escaping after the LMRP procedure. Do you have a sense of how much that's going to be and how it will compare to the previous riser insertion tube? And do you have a sense of what it was about the top kill that didn't work? What's the difference between doing this at 5,000 feet, as you said, compared to previous efforts?

SUTTLES: What we do believe on the LMRP cap is that it should capture the vast majority of the flow. Because it isn't a tight mechanical seal, it isn't a tight connection, it could -- it could clearly have some oil escaping. I can't give a precise quantity, but we do think we'll catch the majority of it, if it works. We can't guarantee that. I mean, you got to realize that no one's ever done anything like this that I know of.

But a lot of work's gone in. We have two different versions of the LMRP cap available to try, so we have those there. We believe from our previous attempts if we can get a good seal over the top, we -- we've proven the production system through the work with the riser insertion tool.

As to exactly why top kill was unsuccessful in overcoming the flow, we actually don't know that for certain. What we do know is that we tried it repeatedly, we used various forms of this junk shot and this plugging materials to try to assist that. But, in the end, all we know for certain is that we were unable to sustainably overcome the flow.

ALAN JOHNSON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE: Alan Johnson for Agence France-Presse. Mr. Suttles, you said the other day that you were considering 11 alternatives to Corexit, for the continued application of the sub-sea chemical dispersant. I was wondering if you could identify what those 11 alternatives are and also what are your plans for cleaning up the chemically dispersed oil that's neither going to be on the top or on bottom that will be sub-sea. I understand some of this is diluted, but are you just going to let it -- let the microbes eat it up or -- or what are your cleanup plans?

And thirdly -- thirdly, you said that if there was an alternative, and a less -- a less toxic alternative, you'd go for it. But isn't disparate -- Dispersit SPC 1,000 a less toxic alternative to Corexit?

SUTTLES: Yes. We -- we continuing to work -- in fact, there were meetings again today with the EPA as we worked through the list. I -- I can't name all the products, but actually, if you go to the EPA list, they're all listed on there and I'm sure we can provide those. And what they asked us to do is look at every one of the products that were on the table -- their table, less toxic than Corexit, and we're doing that. We're working through that.

There was another meeting today. We're almost finished. One of the products we're looking at is the one you described. But until we finish that work, we haven't made any decisions and, of course, we can't make that decision on our own. We need to make that with the EPA. There was actually, as I said, meetings again today on this. And, as I said, if we find an alternative we will use it. We absolutely will use this. We're committed to doing that.

In the meantime, this product, we believe, is appropriate to use. It's been approved. It's widely used and actually the water monitoring work we've done to date doesn't show a toxic -- toxicity problems. But, that said, we will follow the EPA's request and we'll make that move if we find a product.

As to your -- as to your question about the dispersed oil in the water (INAUDIBLE), you have to remember, this -- this dispersed oil is a very, very microscopic amounts and actually the -- the intent of a dispersant is to break the oil into those very tiny droplets so the microbes in the -- in the water eat it. So -- so, no, we wouldn't be able to clean up dispersed oil because actually the process itself just accelerates the natural degradation that takes place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have time for two more questions from the audience, then we have to go to the phone lines.

QUESTION: Hi. (INAUDIBLE) ABC News. Can you talk a little bit more about managing expectations? We're looking at four to seven days, you say? What kind of updates can we expect from you because through the top kill procedures we heard a lot of -- about failures and successes and until now we didn't really know.

LANDRY: Well, I think one thing, there is a lot of speculation, there's a lot of talk, there was a lot around issues I was surprised to hear. We were calling the parish presidents. As I was here, Admiral Watson, my deputy, was calling parish presidents and governors, so I was surprised to hear you say he had heard ahead of time because we didn't know until an hour and a half ago. There was a lot of discussion, but there was a lot of analysis and diagnostics and discussion and -- and obviously briefing all the way to the president.

So we have to manage expectations because we're all on a rollercoaster ride here. Let's be honest. We have been at this since day one. We were always, in the first few weeks, very hopeful that we would -- that we would have success in securing this well, and, obviously, the greatest minds, the greatest technologies -- this is very novel. This is very leading edge. A lot of what we're doing is absolutely leading edge, and, as a country, you can appreciate how important it is for us to have leading edge technologies to be able to -- to draw energy that we need.

But the important point is we -- we do our best to be transparent. We said at day one, we said we will continue to update you. I think we've learned our lessons that if you say -- if you say it's going to take one to two weeks or if you say four to eight days, I think people walk away with four, and they're hoping for four, and they listen to four. And so, when he said four days, I said don't even say four. Say four to seven, because, let's be honest, we -- we may have some slowdowns, and I would rather under promise and over deliver than over promise and under delivers, and I think we have to continue. That's our commitment to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last question.

QUESTION: Lewis Hagan (ph) with the "L.A. Times".

Mr. Suttles, how much farther does the relief well have to go and is the timeframe still August?

SUTTLES: Yes. So, the -- the depth that the relief well has to go to is about 18,000 feet, and that's measured from just above the surface of the sea. It's from the -- the rig floor. Right now, we're at I think 12,090 feet is where we were just earlier this afternoon. So you can see we have about 6,000 feet more to go.

But, remember, the first 5,000 feet was water, so we actually had 13,000 feet of -- of rocks to drill, and -- and so you can see we're about halfway done with that. But the farther we go, the slower it gets. That's why we -- we make the fastest progress early.

But, as I said earlier, we are ahead of our plan right now. That could go backwards, because these drilling operations are quite complex. But as we stand here today, we're a bit ahead and I would actually say the best forecast here at the moment are still early August.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Operator, at this time, we'd like to open the lines for callers.

OPERATOR: Yes, Sir. We have a question from Allison Addicott from "The Washington Times".

ALLISON ADDICOTT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES.COM: Yes. My question actually goes back to looking towards hurricane season and to what extent will operations perhaps be preempted in advance of a hurricane? How will the operation be effective yet flexible with hurricanes beginning to show up as part of the region's what you might call weather challenge?

And then, secondly, will the actual drilling of relief wells be able to continue during that kind of a storm?

LANDRY: This is Admiral Landry. I just want to assure everybody, you know, we -- even though this has been a rollercoaster ride, it's -- I don't mean to make it sound like this is an amusement park. This is very serious, what we're involved in and we are a resilient -- this is a resilient community along the Gulf Coast and we're a resilient nation, but people are also very wise about what hurricanes can do.

And NOAA actually gave us the -- and I think it's -- I imagine it's on our website, hurricanes and the oil spill, and we're trying to start to prepare people for what we can do. I can assure you that the gulf -- the Gulf Coast, because I'm the Eighth District commander in my day job, the offshore workers, there's approximately 30 to 35 workers that work offshore every day. There's a very good system for how they -- for -- what did I say, 3,500? Oh, 35,000. Yes.

A very good system for, you know, evacuating these rigs and doing the shut downs that are necessary to keep things safe while they're in an evacuation mode. We have the same thing that we do as the Coast Guard preparing for search and rescue. Every agency in every community is pretty well versed in hurricane response here, and I think that's our saving grace.

This will be a challenge, obviously. We have -- we have extra challenges this year. We're almost -- they're almost done with the hurricane barrier project that the army corps, the $14.5 billion industrial canal hurricane barrier project that's going to give this region tremendous protection in Louisiana, but we have Alabama, we have Mississippi, we have Florida, and we have to really work closely together to make sure that we include a plan now that we will add for this particular scenario to the existing plans and preparations. And I'm sure we'll be exercising this because we exercise those plans to be ready. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next question please.

OPERATOR: We have question from Margo Roosevelt from "The L.A. Times." Your line is open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Yes, Sir. We have a question from Mark Peters of "Dow Jones News".

MARK PETERS, DOWN JONES NEWS: Hi. Good afternoon.

The question on the next approach, the percentage chance of it working, I think that was asked earlier and -- and nothing was given and I was just wondering if you do have a percentage chance of it working?

And, I guess, secondly, I was wondering is the -- are you using the former top -- the original top hat or constructed a new top hat and put that down on the bottom?

SUTTLES: Yes -- yes on the first part of the question. We don't have a percentage. We do have a lot of confidence, but I'm not going to quote a number. It's almost impossible to know because it hasn't been done before. So, normally, when you quote these success factors you look back in history and you say what -- what has been the historical performance. We don't have that here.

We obviously believe, based on our previous experience with the dome and with the riser insertion tool, that's given us quite a bit of confidence here. But, once again, working at these depths and these conditions, using robots to do the work, there clearly is risk it wouldn't work. But we believe it will and we'll have to -- have to see.

What you can't see being on the phone, of course, is we have -- we have pictures here with us and they'll be up on the website after the press conference, of actually the -- this cap assembly. No, it's not the top hat we talked about before. This is a specifically engineered containment device which is designed to -- to fit over the -- the top of the cleanly cut (ph) pipe on the riser and has a -- a sealing element. It's not a mechanical seal, but a sealing element to try to capture the flow.

And then we -- we have the -- the methanol injection. We'll be producing drill pipe like we did before, with the riser around the outside and pumping warm water down the outside. So we're using all the things we learned from the riser insertion tool, but with this technique, we should capture considerably more of the oil than we were getting with the riser insertion tool.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Yes. We have a question from the line of Carol Rosenberg of "The Miami Herald".

CAROL ROSENBERG, THE MIAMI HERALD: Thanks for the call -- taking the call.

Will we be able to watch and more visibly measure progress as your robot (INAUDIBLE) up the risers and welds on the top hat? We really couldn't watch the top kill or see it happening.

And the second question, Mr. Suttles did say four days and the admiral did say seven days, which is it? Thank you.

LANDRY: Four to seven.

SUTTLES: It's four -- it actually is four to seven, and I think, you know, the admiral knows a lot more about the oil and gas industry now than I think 40 days ago. And one of the things she's learned that we all know is many of the tasks we perform are very, very complex and we forecast they might take an hour or a day or a week and -- and they sometimes take longer because you run into the challenges and issues you face. So I think it's quite wise to think about this in four to seven days.

You will be able to watch much of this. We're streaming these videos out. The problem you had watching the top kill procedure was is the mud we were pumping, a lot of it was exiting the end of the riser and it was creating large sediment clouds. So you -- I can assure you, you were watching the same, actually, video screens that we were watching here as this job was performing. There was not a different feed for you than for us.

You were watching the exact same screens. I could actually look at them here and look at the television and I would see exactly the same thing and you'll be able to monitor this job as goes -- as it's underway as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Next question from the line of Mark Schleifstein from "Times Picayune".

MARK SCHLEIFSTEIN, TIMES PICAYUNE: Yes. Can you all describe in detail exactly how the riser will be severed and the LMRP cap will be installed and whether there will be any attempts to plug any of the leaks in the cap once it is installed?

And also on -- on the bin (ph) and clear, you said there would be a new riser and a new drilling pipe as -- as part of this process. What's -- what's the purpose exactly of the drilling pipe?

SUTTLES: All right. So let me start with the -- the back end of your question. So when we -- when we installed this cap on top of the lower marine riser package, the point the oil is exiting, its connection back to the drill ship Enterprise, which is the same drill ship we used to capture the oil from the riser insertion tube, it flowed up drilling pipe. This is -- this pipe is 6 and 5/8 inch in diameter. And that pipe sits inside a -- what we call a riser.

And so it's a pipe within a pipe and the outer pipe is there so we can actually pump hot water down the outside between the walls of the riser and the drilling pipe and we do that to prevent the formation of the hydrates inside of the drill pipe where the oil is flowing. So that's -- that's the purpose of doing it that way. That element of the equipment is the same equipment we were using for the riser insertion tool.

Your question about sealing leaks, what -- what we should have is we should have a clean-cut surface on the top of this lower marine riser package. We've designed this cap assembly where it should sit down snugly on top of that. Of course, there's no guarantee that will occur, but that's actually what it's been designed to do.

But because it's not a tight fitting -- it's not like a flange connection or bolted up connection here, it's unlikely that it will completely seal off, so it could be leaking around that. If it is, we'll be looking at how to manage that and we will also have sub-sea dispersant available to put on any of the oil that's leaking around there to minimize the impact from that.

The techniques use to cut the pipe is a combination of very large crimping devices and also essentially a -- what you could almost think of as a band saw type arrangement. Obviously, very sophisticated, done at the sea bed. And, once again, when you -- when you see some of the graphics we'll post up on the website, it has pictures of these so you can actually get a -- a sense of what this actually looks like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Next question comes from Hari Sreenivasan from PBS News Hour.

HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWS HOUR: Hi. I just had a couple of questions about flow. You said you've done a massive diagnosis, you know, using some of the smartest minds. So, over the past few days, you've probably been able to study the pressure of the oil coming out.

So, one, do you know how much oil is coming out of the ground? Two, how much have you been able to siphon off up -- out those ships? And then also, regarding the mud and the debris, how much mud and how much debris have you pumped down into the ocean to try to stop this oil?

Thanks.

SUTTLES: The -- the riser insertion tool collected, I believe, a little over 22,000 barrels of oil while it was in operation. I think it was just slightly over 22,000 barrels. So that's what we were successful in bringing to the surface.

We did measure the pressures, but the pressures don't actually tell us what the flow rate was. What they actually do tell us is where obstructions probably are. And that was the critical piece of data. So we were looking to see how high or low these pressures were, and the fact that they were actually relatively modest pressures tells us that a lot of the restrictions are below the blowout preventer or within the blowout preventer, which is why we don't believe the kink is a major constriction in the flow. That's why we believe cutting it away wouldn't have a major impact on the flow rate.

In terms of the mud we pumped out here, we pumped about 30,000 -- 30,000 barrels of mud, and that's actually exited -- that's gone in the well and actually exited out the end of the riser. And that's what we -- that's the total volume we've pumped so far, approximately the total volume.

LANDRY: Can we just add, we had the flow rate technical group that adjusted and modified the estimate of the amount flowing out of the well. That same -- it might not be the same group and it's going to be another scientific group that will begin to examine what has our success been in -- in the response.

In other words, if we know we skimmed so much oil -- and you can measure that quite -- quite clearly and straightforward, we can measure burn somewhat. There's a calculation for how long it burns and the amount you estimate. We can look at, you know, we can do some analysis of sub-sea dispersant on surface dispersant use, and -- and we can look at radar and other -- or, excuse me, satellite and everything to kind of do what they call a mass balance, to try to estimate what has been -- and there's evaporation and other things.

So there is going to be a group that will be examining how much we estimate -- by the government, the federal government will estimate how much oil was recovered in this response. That will take some time, and that's all part of what's called the National Resource Damage Assessment Process that is so important to making the region whole. We are in a response now, but the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Process has begun and that will continue as we examine the impact on the environment.

And those -- those figures will be available for everybody to -- to review.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Operator, we have time for one last question.

OPERATOR: Yes, our next question comes from John Roberts of "USA Today".

JOHN ROBERTS, USA TODAY: Hey, how are you guys doing today? Appreciate all the hard work you're doing.

Has any of this mud been pumped out of the (INAUDIBLE)? I mean, (INAUDIBLE) out of Portland, Oregon. Are you familiar with that? I was talking about the (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That concludes the press conference today. Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for coming.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Well it looks like that just wrapped up. If you've been sitting here and watching this with me for the last 53 minutes, we have all heard the news none of us wanted to hear, but we heard it from BP's COO Doug Suttles. Essentially he said, as it says right there on your TV screen, the top kill is not working. They were not able to stop the flow. And so that picture that we see there, thanks to BP, the underwater picture with the mud and the oil and the gas still flowing, it will continue to flow.

We are going to take a look at every single angle we possibly can here at CNN. We have our best troops on the ground who will help us walk through this. We have David Mattingly. He was sitting in that news conference, got that very first question in to Mr. Suttles. He is there for us in Robert, Louisiana.

We have Carol Costello. She has a sense of what some of the -- the workers, the fishermen, the -- the people there are saying and perhaps reacting to this news. She's in Port Fourchon, Louisiana.

We still have professor Eric Smith on the phone, or rather in person, from Tulane University in New Orleans who can help me walk through the mechanics as to what in the world we're talking about as far as the next few steps.

And meteorologist Jacqui Jeras in our Weather Center to walk us through the mechanics as well; Dan Lothian with the president, who by the way is in Chicago this weekend but has visited the gulf twice, as recent as yesterday. We'll talk to all of them.

Let's get a quick break in. CNN will be right back.

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