BP Says Leak May Be Capped by Wednesday

Workers supervise the drilling of relief wells that BP thinks will help stop the oil spill.
BP's now saying by Wednesday, its new cap will stop the spill, a seal so tight not one drop of oil escape. For now, every drop is gushing into the Gulf.

BP's gusher - its cap torn off - hemorrhaged oil for a second day and won't stop until engineers bolt on a new 75 ton cap to seal the broken well.

"We should anticipate that this whole process should take another five to six days," said BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells.

Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf
Oil Gushes as BP, White House Optimistic

BP hopes this nearby containment ship, the Helix Producer, will recover up to 20,000 barrels a day. But that's only one-third the daily leak. Added skimmers will only help so much, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann.

By switching caps BP's gambling: more oil now, less oil soon. But for now, this spill is worse.

"Whatever oil's floating in these waters is no surprise. The goal now? Complete containment: Get this mess under control.

The Obama White House is pressuring BP to move faster - take full advantage of an eight day window of good weather.

"The hope is that we will be containing all the oil that comes out of that well by the end of July," said senior advisor to the president David Axelrod.

BP's confident it will but its credibility is tattered. After all the failed fixes - top hat, top kill, junk shot - and its over-promising. Back in may, this was BP's prediction when the leak would stop:

"The earliest chance for that would probably be the next few days," said BP COO Doug Suttles on May 14.

Two months later, BP's betting a pair of relief wells are the permanent fix. Their drill rigs sit a half-mile apart. One is two weeks ahead of the other but at least another week away from cutting sideways into the gusher, the next major step to killing it.

"The importance of these wells is more than normal but this is what we do every day," said BP drilling superintendent Dennis Barber.

For now, stopping the spill is almost more important than killing the leak but to stop the spill BP's new cap has to be in place. The company's warning that could take another six days before that's complete.

The official estimate is 60,000 barrels leaking into the Gulf. The new cap will be a much tighter seal in theory than the old one, and there will be a much better sense of how much oil is leaking into the well.

  • Mark Strassmann
    Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.