Friday 24 February 2017

BP admits failures as oil spill anger grows

Dan Earles in Lousiana

BP ADMITTED last night that it was still struggling to contain the Gulf of Mexico oil spill -- the biggest environmental disaster in US history.

After failing again to stem the flow of oil -- six weeks after the initial spill -- the oil giant acknowledged that its latest plan to cap the well would not capture all the crude that is creating a natural catastrophe in the Gulf.

Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive, was facing a groundswell of popular anger after making a new gaffe in which he told a US radio station: "There's nobody who wants this over more than I do. I want my life back," he said.

However, with 19,000 barrels of crude a day still surging into the Gulf -- and little chance of stemming the flow until a relief well can be drilled -- the anger at BP became clear yesterday when Carol Browner, a White House adviser, told NBC that the spill was "probably the biggest environmental disaster we have ever faced".

And there were growing questions yesterday over Mr Hayward's ability to survive the disaster.

"It's getting harder to see how he can really escape from all this," said one oil industry executive.

"He may struggle on until they finally plug it, but the US government is going to demand someone's head on a plate and he is the most likely candidate."

The two relief wells being drilled -- which are supposed to be a better long-term solution -- will not be completed for at least two months.

The latest effort to curb the disaster -- known as the 'top kill' -- failed after engineers had tried for three days to overwhelm the crippled well with heavy drilling mud and junk 5,000 feet underwater. Scepticism is now growing that BP can solve the crisis.

Representative Ed Markey, who leads a congressional committee investigating the disaster, said he had "no confidence whatsoever in BP".

He continued: "I don't think people should really believe what BP is saying in terms of the likelihood of anything that they're doing is going to turn out as they're predicting."

Slicks

BP hopes to saw through a pipe leading out from the well and cap it with a funnel-like device, using the same remotely guided undersea robots that have failed in previous attempts.

But Ms Browner said cutting the pipe could send more oil flowing into the Gulf -- up to 20pc more than is currently spewing. That was because engineers would have to cut off a kink in the pipe that currently seemed to be holding back some of the gusher, she said.

Meanwhile, Mr Hayward disputed claims by scientists that large undersea plumes had been set adrift by the Gulf oil spill.

He said the clean-up fight had narrowed to surface slicks rolling into coastal marshes.

Mr Hayward said BP's sampling showed "no evidence" that oil was suspended in large masses beneath the surface.

He did not elaborate on how the testing had been done.

Scientists have reported plumes of what appears to be oil suspended in clouds stretching for miles and reaching hundreds of feet beneath the Gulf's surface.

Irish Independent

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