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Dark clouds hover over relief efforts in Gulf

Bad weather in the eastern Caribbean may delay BP's attempts to create a permanent fix to the oil disaster.

The weather has played spoilsport again in the Gulf of Mexico. Work on efforts to plug the busted well had to be put on hold as climatic conditions deteriorated in the eastern Caribbean.

The weather forecasters now predict that there is 50 percent probability of a tropical depression or storm in the area within the next 48 hours.

Halting cleanup efforts will grant the crews on dozens of ships around the blown-out oil well sufficient time to leave the troubled waters.

”Static kill” put on hold
BP senior vice president, Kent Wells, averred that the attempt to seal the well from above by dumping mud and oil, termed as “static kill” has also been put in abeyance.

The evacuation of the BP workers would put off the final sealing of the well by as many as 10 to 14 days.

"We haven't completely stopped operations on the relief well, but we've put this, basically this plugging device in to hold what we've got right now pending the decision on whether or not we can remain on scene.” -- Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who's leading the federal response to the spill

"We could have a tropical storm at Macondo and we have to be able to get out of the way. We have to watch the weather very, very carefully and adjust plans accordingly," a cautious Wells said.

As per the original plan, workers would have, on Wednesday and Thursday, reinforced cement in the relief tunnel that will be used to pump mud into the gusher. Thereafter, the final effort to kill the well would have been initiated.

However, all that is on hold now. Alternatively, BP, as a short-term measure, has placed a plug called a storm packer 300 feet below the seafloor, beneath the well's blowout preventer.

"We haven't completely stopped operations on the relief well, but we've put this, basically this plugging device in to hold what we've got right now pending the decision on whether or not we can remain on scene,” retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who's leading the federal response to the spill said.

"If we remain on scene, we'll remove that device and go on and proceed to lay the casing," added Allen.

The relief well, which will provide a permanent solution to the spewing oil, is scheduled to be in place by the end of this month, if the approaching bad weather does not spoil the applecart.

Companies’ collaborative effort
Meanwhile, as a proactive step, four oil behemoths--Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips and Chevron--have joined hands to collectively design, manufacture, and store equipment to respond to any future oil spill.

The $1 billion project, to be named Marine Well Containment Co, is part of an effort to augment response capabilities and to restore confidence amongst the federal government, which at the moment is apprehensive about allowing the continuation of future offshore drilling.