NEW ORLEANS — A procedure intended to ease the job of plugging the blown-out Gulf well for good could start as early as the weekend, the government’s point man for the spill response said Thursday.

The so-called static kill can begin when crews finish work on drilling the relief well 50 miles offshore that is needed for a permanent fix.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said crews would drop in casing for the relief well later Thursday, and that could speed up work on the static kill, although he did not say how much. He previously said it would begin late Sunday or early Monday.

The static kill, which involves pumping heavy mud into the busted well from the top, is on track for completion sometime next week. Then comes the bottom kill, where the relief well will be used to pump in mud and cement from the bottom; that process will take days or weeks, depending on whether the static kill works.