BP says it sees some progress in capping gulf well, collecting oil

Cleanup and containment efforts continue at the Gulf of Mexico site of the oil spill following the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 7, 2010

BP executives said that their efforts to capture the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico have begun to work and that a containment cap placed over the damaged well Thursday night sucked up about 441,000 gallons of oil -- on Saturday, up from around 250,000 gallons on Friday. That oil was diverted to a waiting ship.

The cap continued to draw oil on Sunday but the amount collected was not immediately available, according to the Coast Guard. It is not known how much oil is leaking into the gulf; BP's live feeds show it billowing from the containment cap. Government scientists earlier estimated the daily flow at 12,000 to 19,000 barrels, or 500,000 to 800,000 gallons,

Federal officials and BP executives are struggling to contain the environmental damage from the country's worst oil spill, set off by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon well on April 20.

National incident commander Thad W. Allen said the cleanup will take at least several months. "This will be well into the fall," he said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "This is a siege well across the gulf."

Part of the challenge, he said, is that the oil is not massing into one huge slick, but into hundreds of slicks floating from the middle of the ocean to the coast along Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.

"It's not a monolithic spill," Allen told ABC's "This Week." "It's disaggregated itself into hundreds, maybe thousands, of smaller pieces of oil. So we're trying to fight it on a lot of different fronts."

The government is focused on trying to stop much of the oil from reaching the coastline, he said. "What we're trying to do is fight this thing offshore," he said. "And this is a war. It's an insidious war, because it's attacking four states."

Allen said the government is using about 2,000 vessels to skim and contain the oil.

BP said it has spent more than $1 billion on cleanup and containment efforts. The company said it has spent another $48.1 million on about 18,000 claims from fishermen, businesses and others harmed by the spill and is working through 17,000 more claims. None have been denied, BP said.

BP chief executive Tony Hayward told the BBC Sunday that his company will restore the gulf.

"We are doing everything we can to do the right thing," said Hayward, who added that he has no intention of stepping down. "We are going to stop the leak, we're going to clean up the oil, we're going to remediate any environmental damage and we're going to return the Gulf Coast to the position it was in prior to this event. That's an absolute commitment."

One-third of the federal waters off the gulf have been closed to fishing, and the spill has killed and injured birds and marine animals.

Along the coast, the federal government is training volunteers and is hiring as many as 4,500 unemployed people to help with cleanup efforts, according to the Coast Guard.

But Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said the attention to the disaster and the cleanup efforts is hurting his state.

On "Fox News Sunday," the prominent Republican said news media attention has hurt tourism in Mississippi, making potential visitors think the coast from Florida to Texas is "ankle-deep in oil."

"Our tourist season has been hurt by the misperception of what's going on down here," Barbour said. "The coast is clear: Come on down."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company