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BP trying to put a lid on the Gulf oil gusher

Thursday, June 03, 2010

One-half of the cut and cap is done. Now comes the hard part - putting a lid on the Gulf oil gusher.

BP sliced off the main pipe on the leaking oil well with giant shears Thursday after a diamond-tipped saw got stuck in the pipe halfway through the job.

Unfortunately, the cut was jagged, and a looser fitting cap will be needed.

The inverted funnel-like cap slightly wider than the severed pipe will be placed over the spewing oil. A rubber seal on the inside will attempt to keep oil from escaping.

"We'll have to see when we get the containment cap on it just how effective it is," said Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man for the disaster.

Even if it works, BP engineers expect oil to continue leaking into the ocean.

Experts say, the so-called cut-and-cap method, is risky because slicing away a section of the 20-inch-wide riser removed a kink in the pipe, and could temporarily increase the flow of oil by as much as 20 percent.

This is BP's latest attempt to contain the massive oil spill. The best chance to plug the leak is still two months away. Meanwhile, oil has been pouring into the Gulf of Mexico from the blown-out undersea well for the past six weeks.

Latest developments:

  • President Obama will return to the Louisiana coast Friday to assess the latest efforts, his third trip to the region since the April 20 disaster. It's also his second visit in a week.
  • BP's top executive acknowledged Thursday the global oil giant was unprepared to fight a catastrophic deepwater oil spill. Chief executive Tony Hayward told The Financial Times it was "an entirely fair criticism" to say the company had not been fully prepared for a deepwater oil leak. Hayward called it "low-probability, high-impact" accident.
  • It's virtually certain that BP and other companies involved in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill will face criminal charges and civil penalties that could translate into hundreds of millions of dollars in fines. But for any company executives or workers to be indicted individually, legal experts say the Justice Department will have to find evidence they orchestrated a coverup, destroyed key documents or lied to government agents. Prosecutors could seek serious jail time - five years or more - if they charge anyone with obstruction of justice, making false statements to the FBI or other U.S. officials or conspiracy to hinder a federal probe. But there's got to be evidence that a person was aware of the wrongdoing, well beyond mere negligence or incompetence, experts said.
  • The Coast Guard's Allen directed BP to pay for five additional sand barrier projects in Louisiana. BP said Thursday the project will cost it about $360 million, on top of about $990 million it had spent as of its latest expense update Tuesday on response and clean up, grants to four Gulf coast states and claims from people and companies hurt by the spill.
  • Oil drifted perilously close to the Florida Panhandle's popular sugar-white beaches, and crews on the mainland were doing everything possible to limit the catastrophe. Forecasters said the oil would probably wash up by Friday, threatening a delicate network of islands, bays and white-sand beaches that are a haven for wildlife and a major tourist destination dubbed the Redneck Riviera. Officials said the slick sighted offshore consisted in part of "tar mats" about 500 feet by 2,000 feet in size.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported 522 dead birds - at least 38 of them oiled - along the Gulf coast states, and more than 80 oiled birds have been rescued. It's not clear how many of the deaths can be attributed to the spill.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Tags:
british petroleum, gulf coast, environment, gulf oil spill, oil, national news
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