BP says it has capped the smallest of three leaks coming from a ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.
Around 5,000 barrels of crude have been gushing into the ocean off the coast of Louisiana since the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform sank on the 22nd April.
Capping the first leak will not reduce the flow of oil, but it should make it easier to deal with the other leaks.
Engineers are pinning their hopes on a giant funnel, which is due to be lowered into place over the well on Thursday. Remote controlled submarines will be used to guide the structure into place.
BP has warned that complications could arise but, if all goes well, it could begin funneling oil to a tanker on the surface next week.
John Curry, BP’s Director of Public Affairs said: “Essentially it’s a 98 ton rectangular box that will be lowered over the major source of the leak at the sea bed, and tunnel the oil through the box, through the top and channel it all the way to the surface, where we will have a ship that will be able to collect it.”
However the task is fraught with technical challenges. It will be the first time a containment dome has ever been deployed at a depth of 1,500 meters.
Even if BP is successful, the funnel is only a short term solution. A relief well is also being drilled to relieve the pressure, although will not be ready for at least three months.
In the meantime, attempts are being made to try contain the oil slick using barages and chemical dispersants.
The black tide hasn’t yet reached the coast, but there are fears it is already affecting the region’s delicate ecosystem.