BP to remove equipment at Gulf well by Sunday-US gov’t

* Calmer seas will allow equipment switch to proceed

* Drilling to resume on relief well after switch

By Kristen Hays

HOUSTON, Sept 1 (BestGrowthStock) – BP Plc (BP.L: ) (BP.N: ) expects to
remove a failed blowout preventer atop its ruptured Gulf of
Mexico oil well by Saturday or Sunday and later plug the leak
for good, the top official overseeing the spill response said
on Wednesday.

“We believe in the next 24 to 36 hours, we will enter a
weather window that will allow us to proceed,” retired Coast
Guard Admiral Thad Allen said at a briefing in Houston.

Rough seas near the Macondo well site on Monday suspended
work to remove the giant stack of pipes and valves and replace
it with another, a needed step before BP resumes drilling a
relief well to plug the leak.

The relief well remains on target to intersect the Macondo
well sometime after the U.S. Labor Day holiday on Monday. The
relief well is about 50 feet (15 metres) from its target near
the bottom of the Macondo well about 13,000 feet (4,000 metres)
beneath the seabed.

Allen said six- to eight-foot waves forced BP to hold off,
but three-foot waves are expected Thursday through Sunday.

The failed BOP is critical evidence in criminal and civil
investigations into the April 20 blowout that led to an
explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. The blast
killed 11 men.

A working BOP can handle increased pressure when the relief
well bores into the Macondo well, Allen said.

The combined weight of the pipe that will lift it from the
seabed, a latching mechanism and the BOP will be about 1
million pounds, Allen said.

Waves higher than three feet could overly stress the pipe
and make the BOP swing like a pendulum, he said.

BP aims on Thursday to start by removing a cap atop the BOP
equipment that has cut off all oil flow since July 15, Allen
said.

BP initially plugged the well on Aug. 5 with cement pumped
in from the top. Company and government scientists believe oil
won’t leak during the switch.

“We do believe the risks are small for a hydrocarbon
release,” Allen said. “That said, there will be containment
vessels on standby just in case they’re needed.”
(Editing by Jerry Norton)

BP to remove equipment at Gulf well by Sunday-US gov’t