Relief well could be ahead of schedule
A relief well being drilled into the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico to stop the oil leak could be ahead of its mid-August deadline, but Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen says that's only if conditions are ideal.
The relief well is expected to penetrate the Deepwater Horizon pipe about 18,000 feet below sea level within the next ten days. However, officials do not know how long it will take to stop the oil until the relief well is in place. The ruptured well has several rings, and oil could be leaking through a number of them.
When it comes to the relief well, the plan is to pump heavy mud and then cement into the well to overcome the pressure from the reservoir below. If the process has to go through multiple rings, the timeline would be pushed through to the middle of August, which is the time frame government officials have stuck to for weeks. If the oil is only coming up through the center pipe, then it could be stopped much sooner.
The broken well, which exploded April 20 and killed 11 people, has leaked between 86 and 169 million gallons of crude. That's enough to fill about 3.4 million standard household bathtubs.