BP admitted defeat Saturday in its attempt to plug the Gulf of Mexico oil leak by pumping mud into a busted well, but said it's preparing yet another method to fight the spill after a series of failures.
Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf
BP PLC Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said the company determined the "top kill" method had failed after after it spent three days pumping heavy drilling mud into the crippled well 5,000 feet underwater.
"This scares everybody, the fact that we can't make this well stop flowing, the fact that we haven't succeeded so far," Suttles said. "Many of the things we're trying have been done on the surface before, but have never been tried at 5,000 feet."
(Scroll down to watch CBS News Correspondent Don Teague's report on the "top kill" failure)
BP CEO Tony Hayward said in a statement that he was "disappointed" the risky procedure failed.
"The team executed the operation perfectly, and the technology worked without a single hitch," Hayward said in the statement. "The scientific brains trust assembled here studied the data right through the process."
Hayward also said the decision to put the "top kill" procedure aside was made with the government.
President Obama said the continued flow of oil into the Gulf is
"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," Mr. Obama said Saturday.
Mr. Obama says that while officials had hoped the "top kill" procedure would succeed, they were mindful that there was a significant chance it would not.
Not long after the release of Mr. Obama's statement, the White House announced that three administration officials would return to the Gulf Coast next week. Those officials are Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; and Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, according to a White House statement.
In the days after the spill, BP was unable to use robot submarines to close valves on the massive blowout preventer atop the damaged well, then two weeks later ice-like crystals clogged a 100-ton box the company tried placing over the leak. Earlier this week, engineers removed a mile-long siphon tube after it sucked up a disappointing 900,000 gallons of oil from the gusher.
In the latest try, BP engineers pumped more than 1.2 million gallons of heavy drilling mud into the well and also shot in assorted junk, including metal pieces and rubber balls.
The hope was that the mud force-fed into the well would overwhelm the upward flow of oil and natural gas. But Suttles said most of the mud escaped out of the damaged pipe that's leaking the oil, called a riser.
Suttles said BP is already preparing for the next attempt to stop the leak. Under the plan, BP would use robot submarines to cut off the damaged riser and then try to cap it with a containment valve. Officials say the cutting and capping effort would take at least four days.
"We're confident the job will work but obviously we can't guarantee success," Suttles said of the new plan.
The oil spill began after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in April, killing 11 people. It's the worst spill in U.S. history - exceeding even the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989 off the Alaska coast - dumping between 18 million and 40 million gallons into the Gulf, according to government estimates.
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Word that the top-kill had failed hit hard in the fishing community of Venice, La., near where oil first made landfall in large quanities almost two weeks ago.
The permanent solution to the leak, a relief well currently being drilled, won't be ready until August, BP says.
Experts have said that a bend in the damaged riser likely was restricting the flow of oil somewhat, so slicing it off and installing a new containment valve is risky.
"If they can't get that valve on, things will get much worse," said Philip W. Johnson, an engineering professor at the University of Alabama.
Johnson said he thinks BP can succeed with the valve, but added: "It's a scary proposition."
"Everybody's starting to realize this summer's lost. And our whole lifestyle might be lost," said Michael Ballay, the 59-year-old manager of the Cypress Cove Marina.
Since the top kill began Wednesday, BP has pumped huge amounts mud into the well at a rate of up to 2,700 gallons per minute.
Earlier, Salazar, addressing reporters after he spoke at a high school graduation ceremony in Denver, said the relief well was the ultimate solution, but said something was needed to stop the spill until then.
"We're doing everything with the best minds in the world to make sure that happens," he said.
BP had pegged the top kill's chances of success at 60 to 70 percent. The company says the best way to stop the flow of oil is by drilling relief wells, but those won't be completed until August.
Chris Roberts, a councilman in Louisiana's Jefferson Parish, said he was frustrated by BP's failures and perceived lack of transparency.
"We're wondering whether or not they're attempting to give everybody false hope in order to drag out the time until the ultimate resolution to it" - the completion of the relief wells, Roberts said.
Meanwhile, Coast Guard and Minerals Management Service officials heard a sixth day of testimony during hearings into the disaster in Kenner.
David Sims, BP's drilling operations manager for exploration and appraisal in the Gulf of Mexico, testified he was aware of well problems experienced by the Deepwater Horizon's drilling crew in the weeks and months leading up to the explosion. He said there were no serious problems the day the rig exploded.
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