BP PLC is pushing to fix its runaway Gulf oil well by July 27, possibly weeks before the deadline the company is discussing publicly, in a bid to show investors it has capped its ballooning financial liabilities, according to company officials.
At the same time, BP is readying a series of backup plans in case its current operations go awry. These include connecting the rogue well to existing pipelines in two nearby underwater gas and oil fields, according to company and administration officials.
Much of the additional planning has been pushed by the U.S. government, which has urged BP to develop what one official called the "backup to the backup plan." Both BP and the federal government are concentrating on their next steps, particularly because of uncertainty caused by the imminent hurricane season and the protracted political and financial damage caused by the endless spill.
Both BP and the Coast Guard continue to state publicly they're aiming to have a fix in place in early to mid-August. BP has discussed its backup plans only with administration officials, who in turn have briefed President Barack Obama.
The July 27 target date is the day the company is expected to report second-quarter earnings and will speak to investors. BP also wants to show progress by July 20, the day U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron is scheduled to visit the White House.
"In a perfect world with no interruptions, it's possible to be ready to stop the well between July 20 and July 27," said the head of BP's Gulf Coast restoration unit, managing director Bob Dudley, in an interview. He added that this "perfect case" is threatened by the hurricane season and is "unlikely."
On Wednesday, on a visit to the Discoverer Enterprise, the ship that's collecting oil from the well, Dudley got word of a nine-day period of clear weather starting Friday, a period that could prove critical to the effort.