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BP 'might drill again in Gulf'

BP has said it might consider drilling again into the same lucrative undersea pocket of oil that spilled millions of gallons of crude in the Gulf of Mexico.

"There's lots of oil and gas here," Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said at a news briefing in New Orleans. "We're going to have to think about what to do with that at some point."

The vast oil reservoir beneath the blown well is still believed to hold nearly four billion dollars (£2.5bn) worth of crude. With the company and its partners facing tens of billions of dollars in liabilities, the incentive to exploit the wells and the reservoir could grow.

Retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is helping lead the US Government's response to the spill, said he had no information on BP's future plans.

"I would assume that's a policy issue related to the management of the lease," he said. "Frankly, it hasn't been raised to my level at this point. I'm not sure I can comment on it."

Mr Suttles has spent more than three months managing BP's response efforts on the Gulf but is now returning to his day job in Houston, the company said. Mike Utsler, a vice president who has been running BP's command post in Houma, Louisiana, since April, will replace him.

The personnel shift comes as BP appears to be gaining the upper hand on plugging the leak, triggered when an oil rig exploded off Louisiana on April 20, killing 11 workers and triggering the massive spill.

Engineers this week poured in cement to complete a plug at the top of the well bore as part of a process dubbed a "static kill," but they needed to wait at least a day for it to harden. Once it does, crews can finish the last stretch of a relief well intersecting the blown well just above the oil's source, injecting more mud and cement from the bottom to form a final plug.

Mr Suttles confirmed that crews plan to use the 18,000ft relief well to seal off with mud and cement the underground reservoir feeding the blown well.

The company had been unclear on how exactly it would use the relief well, which it has been digging for three months, as federal officials insisted it should be used to perform the so-called "bottom kill".

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