Philippine Daily Inquirer

New approach could contain US oil spill soon

- AFP

NEW ORLEANS—BP’s efforts to place a new containmen­t cap over the gushing Gulf of Mexico oil well could effectivel­y stop the disastrous spill as early as Monday, a US official said on Friday.

Adm. Thad Allen, who oversees the government’s spill response, said on day 81 of the disaster that an operation to swap in the new cap could begin on Saturday and the entire process would take “about three to four days.”

If successful, the new cap could capture all of the crude spilling into the Gulf and allow it to be siphoned up to container vessels on the surface, in effect halting the devastatin­g spill of crude into the sea that has imperiled fragile coastlines and wildlife across the Gulf Coast.

The days-long process of switching containmen­t devices, however, could see the amount of oil spilling into the ocean temporaril­y increase by up to 15,000 barrels.

“There would be a multiday period there when we’re putting the containmen­t cap on where there would be some exposure of hydrocarbo­ns going into the environmen­t,” said Allen.

The operation is the latest at- tempt to contain the spill that was sparked by the April 20 explosion aboard the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

BP said meanwhile in a letter to Allen that it wants tomove forward with its plan.

Managing Director Bob Dudley said the company wanted to take advantage of forecast good weather to place amore effective cap over the leak and hook up the new containmen­t ship, the Helix Producer.

Under a timeline released by BP, the relief well that would permanentl­y seal the leak would be completed by Aug. 13.

Allen said the government was reviewing BP’s proposal but that he was optimistic about a fix soon for the environmen­tal disaster.

“We have a significan­t chance to dramatical­ly reduce the oil that’s being released into the environmen­t and maybe shut the well in altogether in the next week,” he told CNN on Friday.

The White House has pushed for the new containmen­t device because its superior seal is expected to capture the entire leak and is better equipped to deal with a hurricane threat in the storm-prone Gulf.

Crews have already seen clean-up and containmen­t operations hampered by bad weather and, with an active storm season predicted, officials are busy developing contingenc­ies.

The new system will use “quick-disconnect couplings” allowing container ships to shut down operations and exit the area quickly in the face of a hurricane, Allen said.

The news comes just after President Barack Obama’s administra­tion lost a bid to lift a stay of its six-month freeze on deep-water drilling in the Gulf.

Current government estimates of the spill range from between 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day, based on interpreta­tion of a live video feed of the leak.

An estimated two to four million barrels of oil have gushed into the Gulf waters since the spill began, and a permanent solution is not expected until one of two relief wells is completed.

Oil has now washed up on beaches in all five Gulf states—Texas, Louisiana, Mississipp­i, Alabama and Florida— forcing the closure of fishing grounds and threatenin­g scores of coastal communitie­s with financial ruin.

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