This May 26, 2010 image made from video released by British Petroleum shows equipment being used to try and plug a gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.
NEW ORLEANS - Anger and frustration surged across the Gulf Coast on Monday as residents learned that the latest attempt to cap a renegade underwater well had failed and that oil may keep gushing into the Gulf of Mexico until at least August, when relief wells are scheduled to be finished.
As they entered the 42nd day of the crisis Monday, officials with oil company BP said that over the weekend they had abandoned the so-called "top kill" maneuver to jam drilling mud into the well to stop its flow and were trying a new technique.
"Everybody's lost hope," said councilman Jay LaFont of Grand Isle, La., where beaches and its fishing industry were closed because of the spill. "As long as you have something to look forward to, a little glimmer of hope, you can move on. But this just drained everything out of us."
Up to 800,000 gallons of crude a day has spewed from a well 5,000 feet underwater since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20, killing 11 crewmembers, and sank two days later, unleashing the greatest oil disaster in U.S. history. The well has spilled at least 20 million gallons of crude - surpassing the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska that dumped 11 million.
Using underwater robotic vessels, BP engineers now will try to cut off the pipe attached to the blowout preventer - the 48-foot-tall device that sits over the well - and install a cap atop it, BP spokesman John Curry said. The cap will have piping that will suck oil up to a surface vessel, he said.
This latest attempt was scheduled to be in motion by Wednesday at the earliest. Two relief wells - aimed at punching a hole under the well and plugging it with cement - won't be completed until August, Curry said. By then, more than 50 million gallons of oil could have spilled. "We clearly understand the frustration and we're sorry for the disruption of lives," Curry said. Cutting the pipe will temporarily increase the flow of oil gushing into the Gulf by 20%, he said.
Scientists discovered a new plume of oil - a dense, black cloud about 1,000 feet underwater stretching 6 miles from the well, said Mandy Joye, a University of Georgia scientist leading the research.
"We will die a slow death over the next two years as this oil creeps ashore," Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said.