High seas on the Gulf of Mexico forced BP PLC on Monday to delay operations for up to three days to raise the piece of equipment from the seabed that failed to prevent the massive oil spill, the U.S. government said.
Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man on the spill response, told reporters in a conference call that waves were 6 to 8 feet tall and crews were worried about the potential risk of suspending huge pieces of equipment from a crane in such rough seas.
He said the operations were expected to be pushed back 2 to 3 days, meaning it could be as late as Thursday before engineers begin to remove the temporary cap that stopped more oil from flowing into the sea in mid July and the failed blowout preventer, which is a key piece of evidence in ongoing investigations. The cap will be stored on the seafloor nearby.
It could take at least 24 hours to slowly lift the blowout preventer from the water.
A new blowout preventer will be placed atop the well once the failed one is raised. After that, the goal is to drill the final 50 feet of a relief well.
Engineers will then pump in mud and cement to permanently plug the well that gushed oil. The final plugging of the well was expected to start after Labor Day, but Allen said Monday that will be delayed as well because of the weather.
"We are in a weather hold right now," Allen said from aboard the Development Driller III vessel, which is the vehicle for drilling the primary relief well.