May 17, 2010

BP Reports Some Success In Stopping Leak

British oil company BP announced Sunday that it had started siphoning oil from the leaking Gulf of Mexico well onto a tanker on the surface.

Though not commenting on how much oil was being siphoned, BP executive Kent Wells said the process was "working well".

After two previous failed attempts to insert a long narrow tube into the leaking pipe, the company succeeded on its third try using underwater robots.

More than three-quarters of the leak should be contained with the 6 inch wide tube and stopper, and a smaller spill nearby was also contained.

The tool became dislodged Saturday night, but was back in place by Sunday, said senior vice president Wells at the firm's US headquarters in Houston, Texas. He said the company plans to increase the amount of oil flowing through the pipe to the tanker over the next couple of days.

BP also made clear its position on paying for damages for the disaster, a day after the US government demanded immediate clarification on the issue. The Obama administration said in a letter it wanted to be sure BP would honor commitments not to limit costs to a US cap of $75 million.

BP last week said the cap was irrelevant and it would settle all legitimate damages claims. "What they are requesting in the letter is absolutely consistent with all our public statements on the matter," said BP spokesman David Nicholas on Sunday.

BP would not comment on discoveries made by scientists of possible new vast plumes of oil below the ocean's surface.

Researchers from the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology said they had detected the slicks lurking just beneath the surface of the sea and at depths of 4,000ft.

Scientists say that the chemical dispersants BP has been dumping into the water may be preventing the oil from reaching the surface. The find suggests the scale of the potential environmental disaster is far worse than previously feared since the explosion more than three weeks ago.

BP tried to cap the well a week ago with a massive box, but gave up after it became encrusted with ice crystals.

The spill is threatening to eclipse the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and become the worst environmental disaster in America.


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