In the first breakthrough in its laborious bid to curb the worst US spill in history, British Petroleum said on Friday a cap placed on a ruptured pipe was working and should capture most of the oil.
The news came as US President Barack Obama was heading back to the stricken Gulf of Mexico region for his third visit since an explosion tore through the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig more than six weeks ago.
Remote-controlled submarines grappled the cap into place over a sawn-off riser pipe nearly 1.6 kilometres below the surface late Thursday — in the latest of several attempts to contain the oil belching into the Gulf.
Admiral Thad Allen, the official in charge of the US government response to the spill, said the upside-down funnel-like container was already collecting about 1,000 barrels a day of oil. But he cautioned this was a rough estimate.
“Production is slowly moving up. It’s around 1,000 barrels a day right now,” said Allen.
A live video feed showed clouds of oil still gushing from the pipe, making it hard to determine how much progress was being made. Government scientists have estimated that 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day are pouring from the pipe.
“I’m confident this is going to work,” said BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles.