BP salvage mission halted as fire breaks out on ship
BP has been given permission to start burning oil and gas piped up from its broken seafloor well as part of a pledge to triple the amount of crude it stops from spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.
But it suffered a setback yesterday when a bolt of lightning struck the Discoverer Enterprise, the ship capturing oil from the blown-out well, and ignited a fire that halted containment efforts.
The fire was quickly extinguished and no one was injured, and BP said it hoped to resume containing oil from the well.
Federal authorities gave permission late yesterday for BP to use a new method that involves pumping oil from the broken wellhead to a ship on the surface, where it would be burned off rather than collected.
Yesterday it announced that it hopes to trap as much as 2.2 million gallons of oil daily by the end of the month as it deploys additional containment equipment, including the flaring system.
The plan, unveiled after the US federal government pressed BP to work faster on containing the leak, came as President Barack Obama paid his fourth visit to the stricken Gulf.
He promised residents that life would return to normal after the worst oil spill in US history, which has disrupted fishing and tourism and spoiled ecologically-rich estuaries.
Some Gulf Coast residents seemed sceptical of the promises from the president and the oil company. Jennifer Jenkins (34) of Long Beach, California, said of Mr Obama: "I think that as long as BP is still in control, there's not a lot he can do other than show support for the residents of these Gulf states."
The president visited Mississippi and Alabama yesterday as part of a two-day stop. He sought to assure residents -- and the country -- that the US government will "leave the Gulf Coast in better shape than it was before".
While the president was on the Gulf, congressional investigators released documents that showed BP made a series of money-saving shortcuts and blunders that increased the danger of a destructive spill from a well that an engineer ominously described as a "nightmare" six days before the April blowout.
Investigators found that BP was badly behind schedule on the project and losing hundreds of thousands of dollars each day, and responded by cutting corners in the well design, cementing and drilling efforts and the installation of key safety devices.