BP to Boost Oil Siphoning

HOUSTON(Dow Jones Newswires), May 17, 2010

BP said Monday it will seek to double the amount of oil it is siphoning from a leaking deepwater well in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico in an attempt to minimize the environmental impact as the company works toward a permanent solution to the spill.

BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said at a press conference Monday that the oil giant is managing to capture slightly more than 1,000 barrels a day of crude leaking from the deepwater Macondo well, or about a fifth of the amount currently estimated to be spilling into the Gulf. "Over the course of today we'll be trying to increase that rate," Suttles said, adding that if the company manages to capture "half" of the daily spilled amount or even "2,000 barrels a day, we'd be extraordinarily pleased."

The move would seek to build on one of the rare successes announced by the company in controlling the massive oil spill that followed the explosion and sinking of the Transocean Ltd. (RIG) Deepwater Horizon drilling rig last month, which left 11 dead.

Suttles said that the successful siphoning of crude, along with other offshore efforts such as the subsea injection of oil dispersant and the controlled burning of oil, was "making a big difference" in the size of the spill. After an overflight of the area affected by the
incident, Suttles reported that he had seen "probably the smallest amount of oil I've seen on the surface since the effort began." The
company seeks to stop the flow by injecting a mud that is heavier than crude and water into the well later this week or over the weekend, Suttles said.

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said at the news conference that BP's success in mitigating the spill "will diminish the leak," but "it will not contain it completely." Favorable weather during the week is expected to help operations, however, permitting skimming operations and four controlled burns of crude on the surface. "The volume of oil in the surface is being reduced as we speak," Landry said.

Landry added that, so far, the spill had had minimal impact on the Gulf Coast shore, and that the oil hadn't entered the Gulf's powerful
Loop current, which scientists fear could carry the crude to environmentally sensitive areas in south Florida.

Landry said that media reports about a federally funded scientific mission finding large plumes of oil in the water were "somewhat
premature." The reports said that the oil was making oxygen levels in certain areas collapse. Landry referred to a statement by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrator Jane Lubchenco that said that no definitive conclusions could be reached by the scientists, and that while oxygen levels were below normal, "they are not low enough to be a source of concern at this time."

BP's Suttles said that efforts to permanently cap the spill by drilling a relief well were still under way, and they will be finished in early August. The company has so far spent $500 million in oil response efforts, Suttles said.

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