Yesterday BP began an attempt at closing the well left open after the deadly Deepwater Horizon explosion. They're employing a method called a "top kill." Basically, the goal was to force a high density fluid into the well until the weight of that fluid was enough to offset the pressure of the escaping gas and oil. A detailed description of the procedure (and the one of a kind hardware used in the attempt) is available at the Oil Drum.
The attempt was started around 2PM yesterday afternoon, and as of this morning the mud is still being pumped in. The good news is that there have been no obvious new leaks torn open by the high pressures used, and so far the system seems to be operating as designed. BP is saying that it may be a day or two before we know if the attempt has been successful, but things so far are (fingers crossed) going about as well as could be expected. On the other hand, Bobby Jindal is indicating that he was told the results would be clear much sooner. On the other hand, we are talking about Mr. the-feds-waste-money-preparing-for-unlikely-disasters Jindal, and so far it appears that his major motivation has been to insert his name into the news while making complaints that the government isn't acting fast enough.
One thing that might not be clear from watching the news: this isn't a matter of a dozen guys at BP and a PR team from the Obama administration. A "war room" full of industry experts from over 70 oil companies and drilling technology companies has been working on this problem night and day since the week of the explosion. If you count up the people from EPA, Army Corps of Engineers, and Coast Guard assigned to this issue, the federal government has over 20,000 people involved. The response to this issue has been massive.
BP has done it's best (by failing to share video and using dispersants) to mask the size of the disaster, but both industry and government have responded to the problem on a scale appropriate the to massiveness of the issue. If if doesn't look like there's anything going on, it's just further evidence of the US news industry's inability to cover anything that isn't cut, dried, and packaged according to a well known script.
That said, the size of government and industry response should in no way be comforting. Even with that level of attention, the gusher is in its 36th day and the effects of the oil -- both financial and ecological -- are only beginning to be felt. The fact that government and industry are responding massively shows only that this kind of deep water drilling is far more dangerous and difficult than the oil industry ever admitted. Maybe even more dangerous than they knew.
This isn't a failure of response. It's a failure of imagination and preparation in planning for what might happen long before the tragedy aboard Deepwater Horizon.
And it's a very good reason to extend the ban on deep water drilling far beyond the six months President Obama will propose today.