BP Exec: Tube Siphoning One-Fifth of Leak

NEW ORLEANS (Dow Jones Newswires), May 17, 2010

The tube inserted by BP into a ruptured oil pipe is sucking up about one-fifth of the crude spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, a top company official said Monday.

BP's Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles told CNN that about 1,000 barrels of oil per day is being suctioned up by the tube, out of about 5,000 barrels that the company believes is gushing out daily.

"I'm really pleased we've had success now. We've actually had what we call this rise insertion tube working more than 24 hours now," he told CNN.

"This morning we were producing over 1,000 barrels of oil into the drill ship. So it's good progress."

Suttles acknowledged that most of the oil continues to spill into the open Gulf waters, but said he hoped to be able over time to increase the ratio of captured oil.

"This doesn't capture all of it. There's still oil coming out. But what we hope to do over the next 24 hours is continue to raise the rate, increase the rate coming out of that insertion tube and capture more and more of the flow," Suttles said.

The tube insertion was the first tangible sign of success in more than three weeks of efforts to prevent at least 210,000 gallons of oil from spewing unabated into the sea each day and feeding a massive slick off the coast of Louisiana.

The four-inch (10-centimeter) diameter tube was inserted into the 21-inch leaking pipe using undersea robots over the weekend and
finally managed to begin siphoning oil after some early glitches.

BP estimates that 5,000 barrels of oil each day is gushing into the Gulf, but independent experts have said that the amount could be as much as ten times higher.

The bigger estimate, if accurate, would mean that the tube has only managed to corral a small fraction of the oil flowing into the Gulf,
rather than the 20% that BP officials suggest is being siphoned off.

Company officials also are weighing the possibility of drilling a relief well that would divert the flow and allow the well to be permanently sealed was one of the additional options under consideration, but it wasn't expected to be ready until August.

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