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Apr 29, 2010

US military may join fight to contain Gulf oil slick

HOUSTON, April 29 (Reuters) – BP Plc <BP.L> on Thursday welcomed an offer from the U.S. Defense Department to help contain a massive growing oil slick from a deadly rig explosion that threatens the shoreline of four Gulf states.

BP and the Coast Guard have already mounted what the London-based company calls the largest oil spill containment operation in history, involving dozens of ships and aircraft.

But they are struggling to control the slick from the leaking well 5,000 feet (1,525 metres) under the sea off Louisiana’s coast, which the Coast Guard said late on Wednesday was spilling five times more oil than previously estimated.

President Barack Obama has been briefed on the spill, which could cause serious environmental damage to coastal wildlife refuges, beaches and estuaries in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

"We’ll take help from anyone, I mean we welcome the offer from the Department of Defense, we’re working with the experts across the industry," Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of BP’s exploration and production unit, said.

"We’re not interested in where the idea comes from, what we’re interested in is how do we stop this flow and how do we stop it now?" Suttles said on NBC’s "Today" show.

He told ABC’s "Good Morning America" show: "I believe our plan can handle the spill".

"We’re going to do everything we can to minimize the impact of this event," Suttles said. As owner of the well, BP is financially responsible for the cleanup.

Eleven workers are missing and presumed dead after last week’s worst oil rig disaster in almost a decade. Swiss-based Transocean Ltd’s <RIGN.S><RIG.N> Deepwater Horizon rig sank on April 22, two days after it exploded and caught fire while finishing a well for BP about 40 miles (64 km) southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The leak from the well blowout is now estimated at 5,000 barrels per day — five times than previously estimated. The Coast Guard said that as of Wednesday afternoon, the spill was about 100 miles across and 30 miles wide (160 km by 50 km).

COASTAL STATES ON ALERT

After underwater robots failed to activate a cutoff valve on the ocean floor to stop the leak, BP and the Coast Guard on Wednesday set a "controlled burn" to battle the slick and prevent it from growing.

"We will not rest until we have done everything to bring this under control," said Andrew Gowers, head of group media for BP, likening the spill’s consistency to "iced tea" with the thickness of a human hair.

By Wednesday afternoon, the edge of the spill was 23 miles (37 km) off the Louisiana coast, near fragile estuaries and swamps teeming with birds and other wildlife. A shift in winds could push the spill inland to the Louisiana coast by this weekend, according to forecasters at AccuWeather.

Tarballs and emulsified oil streamers could reach the Mississippi Delta region late on Friday, said Charlie Henry, an expert with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Along with a large seafood industry, the area contains key wildlife habitats in the Pass-A-Loutre Wildlife Management Area and Breton National Wildlife Refuge on the Louisiana coast, which are teeming with nesting birds.

The spill could be devastating for fishermen and oystermen who rely on estuaries and swamps along the Mississippi River for their livelihood. [ID:nN28185887]

"We’re sitting here half praying and half with our fingers, toes and everything else crossed," said Byron Encalade, president of the Louisiana Oysterman Association in Pointe A La Hache, who lost five boats when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

As the oil spill grows, so does the chance that it will affect proposals by the U.S. Congress and Obama to open more offshore areas to limited oil and gas drilling.

"This brings home the issue that drilling despite all the advancements in technology is still a risky business," said Athan Manuel of the Sierra Club, an environmental group.

Preparations were underway to deploy thousands of feet (km) of floating booms in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama in an attempt to contain the oil slick, the Coast Guard said.

The Louisiana accident is the worst oil rig disaster since 2001, when a rig operated by Petrobras off the Brazilian coast exploded and killed 11 workers.

So far the spill is not nearly as big as the Exxon Valdez disaster, which spilled about 11 million gallons (50 million litres) of oil into the Prince William Sound in Alaska in 1989. BP’s well is spewing about 210,000 gallons (954,500 litres) of oil a day into the ocean, the Coast Guard estimates. (Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria in Washington; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and David Storey)






Apr 29, 2010

Gulf of Mexico oil leak grows

HOUSTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Coast Guard said on Wednesday five times as much oil as previously estimated was leaking from a well beneath the site of a deadly drilling rig explosion as the slick threatened wide-scale coastal damage for four U.S. Gulf Coast states.

The Coast Guard said that London-based BP Plc — the owner of the well who is financially responsible for the cleanup — found a third leak in a well 5,000 feet (1,525 metres) under the sea off Louisiana’s coast.

Apr 29, 2010

Gulf of Mexico leak grows, oil slick nears shore

HOUSTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Coast Guard said on Wednesday five times as much oil as previously estimated was leaking from a well beneath the site of a deadly drilling rig explosion as the slick threatened wide-scale coastal damage for four U.S. Gulf Coast states.

The Coast Guard said that London-based BP Plc — the owner of the well who is financially responsible for the cleanup — found a third leak in a well 5,000 feet under the sea off Louisiana’s coast.

Apr 28, 2010

U.S. Coast Guard sets oil slick ablaze

HOUSTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday set a “controlled burn” to battle a giant oil slick from last week’s deadly offshore drilling rig explosion, as the spill threatened wide-scale coastal damage for four U.S. Gulf Coast states.

The leaking well, 5,000 feet (1,525 metres) under the sea off Louisiana’s coast, has created an oil sheen and emulsified crude slick slightly bigger than the U.S. state of West Virginia, the Coast Guard said.

Apr 28, 2010

Coast Guard says to set leaking oil ablaze

HOUSTON (Reuters) – The Coast Guard said it will start a “controlled burn” on Wednesday to battle a giant oil slick from last week’s deadly offshore drilling rig explosion, as the spill threatened wide-scale coastal damage for four U.S. Gulf Coast states.

The leaking well, 5,000 feet under the ocean surface off Louisiana’s coast, has created an oil sheen and emulsified crude slick with a circumference of about 600 miles, covering about 28,600 square miles (74,070 sq. km), the Coast Guard said on Tuesday. That’s slightly bigger than the state of West Virginia.

Apr 27, 2010

US Gulf of Mexico spill may hit coast this weekend

HOUSTON, April 27 (Reuters) – A giant oil slick from a deadly offshore drilling rig explosion could hit the fragile U.S. Gulf Coast shoreline this weekend as the White House and Congress launched separate probes into the worst offshore incident in nearly a decade.

The leaking well, 5,000 feet (1,525 metres) under the ocean surface off Louisiana’s coast, has created an oil sheen and emulsified crude slick with a circumference of about 600 miles (970 km), covering about 28,600 square miles (74,070 sq. km), the Coast Guard said on Tuesday. That’s slightly bigger than the U.S. state of West Virginia.

Swiss-based Transocean Ltd’s <RIGN.S><RIG.N> Deepwater Horizon sank on April 22, two days after it exploded and caught fire while finishing a well for BP Plc <BP.L> about 40 miles (64 km) southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The Coast Guard is using eight underwater robots to try to activate a cutoff valve on the ocean floor to stop the oil flow. The Coast Guard is also weighing a plan to set the oil ablaze where it is bubbling to the surface above the well in an attempt to arrest the spread, starting as soon as Wednesday.

If unchecked, "this could be one of the most significant oil spills in U.S. history," said Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry, who is heading the federal cleanup effort. <^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ SCENARIOS-Possible political fall out from U.S. oil spill

[ID:nN27113383] BREAKINGVIEWS-Big oil spill may not just be BP’s problem

[ID:nLDE63Q1SZ] ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>

However, the spill is not comparable with the infamous Exxon Valdez disaster, which spilled about 11 million gallons (50 million litres) of oil into the Prince William Sound in Alaska when it ran aground in 1989. BP’s well is spewing about 42,000 gallons (190,900 litres) of oil a day into the ocean, the Coast Guard estimates.

It was the worst oil rig disaster since 2001, when a rig operated by Petrobras <PETRA4.SA> off the Brazilian coast exploded and killed 11 workers.

London-based BP Plc, which owns the well and is financially responsible for the cleanup, is spending $6 million a day on a massive on-sea clean-up effort that involves dozens of ships and aircraft.

BP announced a doubling of its quarterly profits on Tuesday but investor concern over cleanup costs weighed on the company’s shares. [ID:nLDE63P29B]

Both BP and Transocean fell under scrutiny from federal and congressional investigators, which on Tuesday announced separate probes.

The Homeland Security and Interior departments launched a joint investigation, with a separate probe unveiled by a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"A striking feature of the incident is an apparent lack of an adequate plan to contain the spreading environmental damage," committee lawmakers said in a letter to BP and Transocean executives.

The spill moved toward shore on Tuesday and was 20 miles (32 km) from the Louisiana coast. A shift in winds could push the spill inland to the Louisiana coast by this weekend, according to forecasters at AccuWeather.

"The wind will nudge the oil slick more to the north-northwest," said Dan Kottlowski, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather. "It might make it onshore over the southeast Louisiana coast first," and later threaten beaches in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, Kottlowski said.

Charlie Henry, an expert with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, discounted landfall predictions, because they are beyond the agency’s 72-hour accuracy window.

However, Henry said "the Delta region is at risk," including key wildlife habitats in the Pass-A-Loutre Wildlife Management Area and Breton National Wildlife Refuge on the tip of the Louisiana coast, which are teeming with nesting birds.

As the oil spill grows, so does the chance that it will impact efforts by the U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama to open more offshore areas to limited oil and gas drilling. [ID:nN2399646]

Obama on March 31 called for a limited expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling in an effort to win Republican support for new proposals to fight climate change. [ID:nN31367614]

But Obama’s plan left the thorniest issues, such as how royalties that oil firms pay to drill on federal offshore waters will be shared with coastal states, for lawmakers to settle.

A bipartisan group of senators had aimed to unveil a climate change bill on Monday that would have included some offshore drilling expansions. But the plan was called off when Republican Senator Lindsey Graham raised 11th-hour objections related to immigration. [ID:nN24134665]

(Additional reporting by Bruce Nichols and Kristen Hays in Houston and Ayesha Rascoe and Jeremy Pelofsy in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)




Apr 25, 2010

U.S. backs plan to stop leaking Gulf of Mexico oil well

HOUSTON (Reuters) – U.S. agencies on Sunday approved a plan to use remote-controlled underwater vehicles to seal a leaking oil well beneath a drilling rig that exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico last week.

The well, 5,000 feet under the ocean surface off Louisiana’s coast, is leaking about 1,000 barrels of oil a day. The spill, which the U.S. Coast Guard has called “very serious,” could threaten the Gulf Coast’s fragile ecosystem if not contained.

Apr 25, 2010

Well beneath sunken US rig has serious oil leak

HOUSTON (Reuters) – An oil well on the ocean floor beneath a drilling rig that exploded and sank into the Gulf of Mexico began spewing oil on Saturday, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The well, 5,000 feet beneath the ocean surface, was leaking about 1,000 barrels per day of oil, a Coast Guard spokeswoman said, in what the agency called a “very serious spill.” Remote underwater vehicles detected oil leaking from the riser and drill pipe, the spokeswoman said.

Mar 23, 2010

Fans flock to SXSW festival in record numbers

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – For fans that crowded into Austin’s streets, clubs and even churches last week, the South by Southwest Festival was about drinking a lot of beer, eating barbecue and hearing some of the world’s hottest bands.

But for music executives that flocked to the event on Sunday, the 10-day music, film, and interactive industry networking marathon was an chance to live on the razor’s edge of technology and glimpse of the industry’s changing face.

Mar 22, 2010

Fans flock to Texas SXSW festival in record numbers

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – For fans that crowded into Austin’s streets, clubs and even churches last week, the South by Southwest Festival was about drinking a lot of beer, eating barbecue and hearing some of the world’s hottest bands.

But for music executives that flocked to the event on Sunday, the 10-day music, film, and interactive industry networking marathon was an chance to live on the razor’s edge of technology and glimpse of the industry’s changing face.

    • About Chris

      "Chris has been a journalist for Reuters since 2001, when he joined the Washington DC bureau as a summer intern. As a correspondent in Washington, Chris covered energy policy, reported on Congress, the Supreme Court and federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency. As Houston Bureau Chief, Chris oversees a team of five reporters and covers general news topics like the BP oil spill, hurricanes, NASA, and national politics. In addition, Chris oversees a team of Power and Gas reporters in New York and Houston."
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