New Orleans – A cap was back in place on BP’s broken oil well after a deep-sea blunder forced crews to temporarily remove what has been the most effective method so far for containing some of the massive Gulf of Mexico spill.
Engineers using remote-controlled submarines repositioned the cap late on Wednesday after it had been off for much of the day. It had captured 2.7 million liters of oil in 24 hours before one of the robots bumped into it late in the morning.
Bob Dudley, BP’s new point man for the oil response, said crews had done the right thing to remove the cap because fluid seemed to be leaking and could have been a safety hazard.
‘Ramping back up’
The logistics co-ordinator onboard the ship that has been siphoning the oil told The Associated Press that the system was working again but it would take a little time before for the system to “get ramped back up”.
He asked not to be identified by name because he was not authorised to provide the information.
“It’s a setback, and now we will go back into operation and show how this technology can work,” Dudley said before the system was working again.
While the cap was off, clouds of black oil gushed unchecked again at up to 394 000 litres per hour, though a specialised ship at the surface managed to suck up and incinerate 1.7 million litres.
The latest problem in the effort to stop the gusher came as thick pools of oil washed up on Pensacola Beach in Florida, and the Obama administration sought to resurrect a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling.
Britain, home of BP’s headquarters, said deep-sea exploration will continue in North Sea oil fields off Scotland despite safety concerns raised by the Gulf spill, the country’s energy minister said on Thursday.
Energy Secretary Chris Huhne told an energy conference in London that regulation is strong enough “to manage the risk of deep-water drilling”. Britain announced this month it was doubling the number of inspections carried out at North Sea oil rigs following the Gulf disaster.
The current worst-case estimate of what’s spewing into the Gulf is about 9.5 million litres a day. Anywhere from 254 million litres to 481 million litres have spilled since the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig.
In Florida, thick pools of oil washed up along kilometres of national park and Pensacola Beach shoreline as health advisories against swimming and fishing in the once-pristine waters were extended for 53km east from the Alabama line.
“It’s pretty ugly, there’s no question about it,” said Florida Governor Charlie Crist.
The oil reeked as it baked in the afternoon heat on a beach that looked as if it had been paved with a 2m-wide ribbon of asphalt.