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A heavy cap sits on top of the busted oil well about a mile under the water in the Gulf of Mexico. Thanks to a process called "static kill," the well is no longer leaking oil. The image was captured from a video on August 3, 2010. (BP/Reuters)

Goodbye Gusher?

Engineers successfully seal leaking end of busted oil well in the Gulf of Mexico

By Laura Leigh Davidson | null null , null

Another barrier has been put between the Gulf of Mexico and the busted oil well that has been polluting its waters, threatening its wildlife, and hurting the economy of surrounding coastal communities.

Engineers forced 2,300 barrels of mud into the well this week, pushing the surging oil back through well pipes closer to its source on the ocean floor. After two days of tests, scientists are satisfied that the mud barriers are effectively plugging the gushing well.
 
On Thursday, engineers will top the mud with masses of cement to ensure that the oil does not push through the mud barriers they have created. This process is called a "static kill," and should close off the wellhead for good. This positive development comes 108 days after the oil rig explosion that killed 11 people and began one of the worst oil spill disasters in history.

Although the static kill has successfully plugged the leaking oil well, work on two relief wells on the ocean floor will continue. These wells are meant to cut off the flow of oil at its source, which is the most effective way to eliminate any chance of oil escaping from the well ever again.

Oil in the Water

U.S. government scientists estimate that more than 200 million gallons of oil have spilled into Gulf waters since April 20. But according to a government report released on Wednesday, only a quarter of that amount remains below the ocean's surface or on Gulf shores. To be clear, that's still roughly 50 million gallons of oil that remain a threat to the Gulf's wildlife and environment.

What happened to the majority of the oil spilled over the past four months? According to the report, a temporary containment cap collected much of it, some has already been cleaned up or dispersed by chemicals, and a small amount has naturally evaporated or dissolved.

BP, the company operating the oil rig at the time of the explosion, and the government have vowed that cleanup efforts will continue until the parts of the Gulf Coast affected by the spill are restored to what they were before the disaster began.

TRACKING THE OIL-SPILL DISASTER

Scholastic News Online has been tracking the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Click here for a collection of news stories, video, a kids' poll, and other resources that will grow as the events of this environmental disaster unfold.

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