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BP begins capturing some oil from Gulf gusher

BP began capturing some oil spewing from a 46-day gusher today after installing a containment cap atop a ruptured Gulf of Mexico well and President Barack Obama was set to make his third trip to the stricken area since the disaster.

world Updated: Jun 04, 2010 20:36 IST

BP began capturing some oil spewing from a 46-day gusher on Friday after installing a containment cap atop a ruptured Gulf of Mexico well and President Barack Obama was set to make his third trip to the stricken area since the disaster.

BP Plc executives sought to reassure investors with a conference call but put off a decision on whether to suspend paying its next quarterly dividend as some US politicians had demanded.

The company's share price gyrated in London and New York as company CEO Tony Hayward answered questions. He said the company had plenty of money to meet its obligations, including $5 billion in cash and additional credit lines it could tap if necessary. It has already spent well over $1 billion on its response.

The US Coast Guard said the containment cap placed atop the gusher a mile deep (1.6 km) beneath the Gulf's surface was now collecting about 1,000 barrels a day.

It was a sign of progress after several failed attempts by the energy giant. US officials cautioned against being too optimistic, however, since large amounts of oil are still escaping.

BP does not expect to be able to fully halt the oil flow until August, when two relief wells are to be completed.

The amount of oil being captured should increase as BP closes vents to trap more oil, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen told reporters in a conference call.

"Sometime later today we'll probably be able to get ... an approximation of how much oil we are capturing," Allen said.

Earlier on Friday, BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles told US networks the containment cap "should work" by capturing upward of 90 percent of the gushing oil.

One thousand barrels is a small fraction of the 19,000 barrels per day that the US government has estimated could be gushing from the well.

Pressure had been building on BP to suspend dividend payments, which total $10.5 billion a year, and divert cash to dealing with the spill and clean-up but the company's statement was inconclusive on the issue.

"Future decisions on the quarterly dividend will be made by the Board, as they always have been, on the basis of the circumstances at the time. All factors will be considered and the decision taken in the long-term interests of the shareholders," the statement said.

"It's a little bit like sitting on the fence," said Giles Watts, head of equities at City Index in London.

Hayward vowed BP will "stand by our obligations."

"We will halt this spill and put right the damage that has been done," he said.

Obama is confronting one of the biggest tests of his presidency as his party girds for tough congressional elections in November. He called off a trip to Australia and Indonesia set for this month to focus on the oil spill.

He was making his third visit to the Gulf. The president has faced criticism as to whether he is doing enough or showing enough emotion in dealing with the crisis.

Obama told CNNLarry King Live on Thursday that "venting and yelling at people" was not his role.