WRAPUP 6-BP ‘top kill’ fails, piling more pressure on Obama

* Tricky maneuver fails after 72-hour effort

* Obama says to pursue ‘responsible’ means to plug leak

* BP moves to next option, one to capture most of the oil

* Relief wells best bet, two months away
(Updates with Obama statement, resident reaction)

By Ed Stoddard and Mary Milliken

VENICE, La./HOUSTON, May 29 (BestGrowthStock) – BP Plc (BP.L: ) said
on Saturday its complex “top kill” maneuver to plug the Gulf of
Mexico oil well has failed, crushing hopes for a quick end to
the largest oil spill in U.S. history already in its 40th day.

It may be another two months before the London-based energy
giant can definitively turn off the gusher — a delay that
could undermine U.S. President Barack Obama as he faces growing
criticism for a perceived slow response to the disaster.

“We will continue to pursue any and all responsible means
of stopping this leak until the completion of the two relief
wells currently being drilled,” Obama said in a statement after
the news, noting that the wells will take months to complete.
[nN29236548]

The beleaguered BP said its next option is a “lower marine
riser package” that will not plug the well ruptured in a rig
blast, but rather capture most of the oil on the sea floor and
channel it to the surface for collection. [nN29233965]

BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward called the containment cap
“the best way to minimize the flow of oil into the Gulf” and
said it would take around four days to put it in place.

But even Obama sought to lower expectations for this
option, which he said is difficult and “has never been
attempted before at this depth.”

<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

TAKE A LOOK on the spill [ID:nSPILL]

BREAKINGVIEWS: [ID:nN28122201]

INSIDER TV: http://link.reuters.com/wuw64k

Graphic: http://link.reuters.com/neh56k

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>

BP and Hayward’s credibility are at new lows, after the
chief executive had given the top kill a 60 to 70 percent
chance of success although it had never been done at the depth
of the well, a mile (1.6 km) beneath the sea.

“I am disappointed this operation did not work,” Hayward
said in a statement. “The team executed the operation perfectly
and the technology worked without a single hitch.”

The news was a blow to Gulf coast residents, whose
communities are still recovering from the 2005 Hurricane
Katrina and now have to contend with oil invading fragile
marshlands and waters vital to wildlife and a lucrative
commercial fishing industry.

Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish president Billy Nungesser
was about to address a crowd when he got news of the top kill
failure. “I didn’t have the heart to tell them it didn’t work,”
he told CNN.

The Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11
workers and unleashing an underwater torrent of oil that the
government estimated at 12,000 to 19,000 barrels (504,000 to
798,000 gallons/1.9 million to 3 million liters) a day.

This week, the government showed that the Gulf disaster has
surpassed the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaskan waters.

‘GET RELIEF WELL DRILLED’

The bad news came over the beginning to a three-day weekend
at a daily briefing by the U.S. Coast Guard and BP Chief
Operating Officer Doug Suttles.

Coast Guard Admiral Mary Landry said the failure was very
disappointing and that the best option for ending the spill was
the current drilling of a relief well which BP estimates will
be finished by late July or early August.

Local residents angered by the string of failures and
insufficient clean-up over nearly six weeks felt the same way.

“I knew it wasn’t going to work,” said Joey Toups, 53, a
Louisiana shrimper idled by the spill and a former oil worker.

“I’ve worked in oil fields before. The only solution is
that other drilling rig sitting out there. They need to get the
relief well drilled.”

BP’s already tarnished reputation and its bottom line are
likely to suffer further, as is the share price when markets
re-open on Tuesday.

BP has thus far spent $940 million to try to plug the leak
and clean up the sea and soiled coast.

The disaster has wiped out a quarter of its market value,
or $50 billion, and its London-traded shares lost 5 percent on
Friday alone as delays in the top kill made investors sell.

Top kill involved pumping heavy fluids known as drilling
mud and other material into the well shaft to stifle the flow,
then seal it with cement. Hayward said BP pumped 30,000 barrels
of mud at high pressure before giving up.

Although the Obama administration has put the blame
squarely on BP, polls show Americans are losing faith in the
government’s ability to mitigate the disaster.

In his second visit to the Gulf in the 40-day crisis on
Friday, Obama faced criticism that he responded too slowly. He
told people in Louisiana that they “will not be left behind”
and that the “buck stops” with him.

There is not much Obama can do other than apply pressure to
BP to get it right and put his best scientists in the room. The
government has no deep-sea oil technology of its own.

COMPARISONS TO KATRINA

But that does not mean the public will forgive the
first-term president, who is anxious to avoid comparisons to
former President George W. Bush and his government’s
much-criticized response to Hurricane Katrina.

His political opponents, and even some prominent Democrats,
are calling on him to take command of the situation. That kind
of rhetoric could hurt his credibility ahead of congressional
elections in November, when Democrats are poised to lose
seats.

Obama again tried to assuage Gulf residents on Saturday and
told them he will keep the heat on BP to repair the damage to
their lives and habitat.

“It is as enraging as it is heartbreaking, and we will not
relent until this leak is contained, until the waters and
shores are cleaned up, and until the people unjustly victimized
by this manmade disaster are made whole,” Obama said in his
statement.

With the leak and the clean-up far from solved, BP now has
a new headache: accusations that its 22,000 workers employed in
clean-up are not adequately trained and equipped and some of
them have been sickened by the oil.

Suttles said, “It’s clear that people have gotten sick and
we need to figure out what we need to do to change that.” But
he said illness was not widespread among the workers.

Stock Market Money

(Additional reporting by Kristen Hays in Houston, Patricia
Zengerle in Chicago, Jane Sutton and Pascal Fletcher in Miami;
writing by Mary Milliken; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

WRAPUP 6-BP ‘top kill’ fails, piling more pressure on Obama