Tropical depression halts drilling at Gulf well

BP and Coast Guard officials had already decided to stop drilling earlier Tuesday, before forecasters at the National Hurricane Center named the storm a depression.A tropical storm warning was issued for much of the Gulf Coast affected by the oil spill, from Destin, Florida, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, and included New Orleans.

The center of the storm was located off Florida, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River today and was weakening. The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the depression could dissipate instead of becoming Tropical Storm Danielle.

The gusty weather will likely do more good than harm for the oil that remains in the Gulf, said Jerry Galt, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.
The storm shouldn't get strong enough to bring any kind of significant surge of water on shore. What little recognisable oil that remains on the surface will be broken down further by the choppy seas, Galt said.

"Any kind of energetic storm will typically just disperse it more at this point," Galt said.
Retired Coast Guard Adm Thad Allen, the government's point man on the spill, said the last steps will have to wait for ending any threat from the well that spewed more than 200 million gallons (757 million liters) of oil over three months before a temporary cap sealed it in mid-July.

Crews will pop in a temporary plug to safeguard what they've drilled so far, but they won't send workers back to land. They have about 15 meters left to drill.

The relief well is meant to allow BP PLC to pump mud and cement into the broken one from deep underground for a so-called bottom kill, a permanent seal that would complement a plug injected into the top of the well last week.

Allen has insisted for days that BP go ahead with the bottom kill, even though the top plug appeared to be holding. On Tuesday, though, he said testing still needs to be done on the well before a final decision is made.

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