BP's final well kill delayed by brewing storm: official

US spill chief Thad Allen said work on the relief wells had been put on hold for two or three days.

There was no danger of the storm reopening the plugged well, which caused the largest maritime oil spill of all time, but it forced drilling rigs to suspend operations on crucial relief wells.

"There is a high chance, 60 per cent, of this system becoming a tropical or subtropical cyclone during the next 48 hours," a statement from the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.

After drilling 5,426 meters below sea level, the first relief well is less than 40 feet from intercepting the stricken Macondo well, although the last bit is by far the trickiest and most time-consuming part.

Allen has said he hopes to intercept the well later this week so engineers can pump in heavy drilling fluid and cement to provide a permanent seal over the oil reservoir miles beneath the sea floor.

BP performed a static kill operation last week that suppressed the gushing oil with mud and put a basic cement plug over the top of it.

The well ruptured when the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig sank on April 22, two days after a massive explosion that killed 11 workers.

As operations continued in the Gulf of Mexico, the US government was reportedly closing in on a deal with BP to see its verbal commitment to fill up a USD 20-billion disaster fund become a legal obligation.

BP deposited yesterday a first installment of three billion dollars into a special bank account that will compensate thousands of Gulf residents and businesses hit by the largest maritime oil spill of all time.

But The Wall Street Journal reported that US President Barack Obama's administration was still holding discussions with the energy giant on how it intends to guarantee it will pay the remaining USD 17 billion.

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