From: Steve Gorman, Reuters
Published May 17, 2010 06:35 AM

BP says progress in effort to contain oil spill

Energy giant BP was making some progress on Monday with its efforts to contain the oil gushing forth from a ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico,

But the stakes are high amid fears of an ecological and economic calamity along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Investors have already knocked around $30 billion off BP's value and its share price will be closely watched this week.

After several tough weeks, this is shaping up to be another rough one for the company. A U.S. Labor Department official told the Financial Times that BP has a "systematic safety problem" at its refineries.


"BP executives, they talk a good line. They say they want to improve safety," Jordan Barab, a senior official at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, told the paper.

"But it doesn't always translate down to the refineries themselves. They still have a systematic safety problem."

Last year U.S. regulators slapped a record $87.4 million fine on BP for failing to fix safety violations at its Texas City refinery after a deadly 2005 explosion.

BP reported limited success at containing the oil flow on Sunday but a skeptical Obama administration downplayed it.

After other attempts to contain the spill failed, BP succeeded in inserting a tube into the well and capturing some oil and gas. The underwater operation used guided robots to insert a small tube into a 21-inch (53-cm) pipe, known as a riser, to funnel the oil to a ship at the surface.

Not all of the oil was being trapped, however.

"This is a good step forward," said Satish Nagarajaiah, professor in civil and mechanical engineering at Rice University in Houston, but he said the siphon tool is unlikely to capture more than 15-20 percent of the oil.

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