Nightly News   |  June 26, 2010

‘Unprecedented’ effort to dig relief wells

Traveling to the site of the drilling, NBC’s Anne Thompson witnesses the constant reminder to workers that “the world is watching,” and assesses the threat that Tropical Storm Alex poses.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

LESTER HOLT, anchor: In the meantime, BP continues to drill the two relief wells that may be the last and best hope for stopping this catastrophic gush of oil. NBC 's Anne Thompson got a firsthand look today at the push to finish those wells and get them online. She joins us tonight from Houma , Louisiana . Anne :

ANNE THOMPSON reporting: Good evening, Lester . Today I got a chance to go out to the Development Driller II , or DD2 . It's one of two rigs working on the ultimate solution to plug the well that plagues the gulf. It is a ride through the clouds to get to the rig. When you can see the gulf, the current lines stand out in oily relief. As you get closer, the water is marred with tentacles of crude. Around the site there is an armada of aid, and yet a mile below the surface the well still gushes. This is the DD2 . It is where they are drilling the second relief well. Over here, this is the DD3 . That is where they are drilling the first relief well. And it is within 1800 feet of the out-of-control well. The goal? To kill the well that killed 11 men on the Deepwater Horizon , something offshore installation manager Chris Wakowsky never forgets. How's the well going?

Mr. CHRIS WAKOWSKY: Well's going good. We're sticking on our target here for August, and everything's going as planned. The guys are really driven and motivated.

THOMPSON: So far the massive drill has dug 12,000 feet below the water and started the turn towards the well. The casing is stacked, ready to go. Wendell Guidry is the drilling superintendent. What's the job of the casing?

Mr. WENDELL GUIDRY: The casing actually seals the well bore that you drill, seals it off, keeps all the formations on the outside of it.

THOMPSON: So it holds the shape of the hole that you've drilled.

Mr. GUIDRY: That's correct.

THOMPSON: The effort out here is unprecedented. There are 173 workers on the DD2 , 1500 workers in total on the 45 rigs and vessels. It is a constant reminder to those on board that the world is watching.

Mr. MITCHELL BULLOCK (BP Well Site Leader): This is just a high-profile well. I'm a put it this way. This is probably the most important well I've ever been on in my life. How's that?

THOMPSON: This weekend on the DD2 there is a lot of talk about Tropical Storm Alex . If a tropical storm or hurricane threatens this part of the gulf, it will be Matt Makowski 's job to move the platform. He is the captain of the rig. To unhook everything, to pack up the rig, that takes how long?

Mr. MATT MAKOWSKI: It depends where we are. Right now it could take about -- approximately one to two days.

THOMPSON: About two days.

Mr. MAKOWSKI: Yeah.

THOMPSON: And then do you go into shore?

Mr. MAKOWSKI: No, we will stay offshore and we'll try to just get as far as possible from the storm.

THOMPSON: Now, weighing some 46,000 tons, the DD2 does not move fast. It only travels at a speed of about six to seven miles an hour. So it needs a lot of lead time to shut down and get out of the way. Lester :

HOLT: Anne Thompson tonight. Anne , thank