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BP scrambles to install device to contain oil spill

world Updated: May 15, 2010 11:17 IST
Reuters
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Energy giant BP scrambled on Saturday to make good on its latest attempt to contain oil from a gushing well in the Gulf of Mexico as the region's suffering workers braced for environmental disaster.

With oil gushing unchecked from a blown-out well a mile (1.6 km) under the Gulf, London-based BP was struggling to guide undersea robots to insert a narrow tube wrapped in a rubber flange into the 21-inch pipe now spewing oil -- and funnel that oil to a drill ship on the surface.

"That work is currently underway and we hope to begin operations overnight," BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles told reporters on Friday afternoon.

A BP spokesman said late on Friday the installation process still ongoing. That was little comfort to people in the region, anxious for progress and wary of how their livelihoods would change as the crisis drags on.

As National Guard crews pressed on to fill in shoreline breaches in the long line of protective booms designed to keep oil out of the Louisiana's huge and vital marsh system, idled shrimpers continued to look for alternative work.

"I want to throw up right now," said Michael Gros, 51, a shrimp boat owner and captain from Larose, a town in the La Fourche Parish of Louisiana.

"I've been doing this for 22 years full time, and I don't really know nothing else," he said in a soft Cajun drawl. "If it doesn't come into our marsh and ruin our marsh, I'll be very surprised. Once the grass dies, it's gone."

The energy giant's prior attempt to contain the oil -- a giant containment dome -- failed last week after an accumulation of frozen hydrocarbons rendered it useless.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday gave a tongue-lashing to all the companies involved in the spill -- BP, Halliburton and Transocean Ltd. -- and said he would not rest until the leak was stopped at its source.

The spill began after an April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, which killed 11 workers. It threatens to eclipse the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska to become the worst ecological disaster in U.S. history.

Fisheries and tourism, two of the Gulf Coast's economic mainstays, along with birds, sea turtles and other wildlife are threatened by the spreading sea of oil.
BP's chief operating officer Doug Suttles said weather would help the company deal with the incident over the weekend and into next week.

"We have our best success when the weather is good, and the forecast for the weekend and the early part of next week looks very favorable to use all of our tools available to us."

"Thankfully to date there's been very limited impact to shoreline." Beachgoers in the resort town of Grand Isle, a major recreational fishing hub, were naturally uneasy.
Scott Gaudin, 45, a former petrochemical worker and lifelong visitor to Grand Isle who made the three-hour drive down from his home in Gretna with his wife and two dogs, spent time on Friday collecting scattered bits of what appeared to be hardened, black tar off the beach.

Gaudin said he was convinced the greenish-tan foam washing up along the water's edge was tainted with oil and he could see a slight sheen on the surface of the water as the surf ebbed.

"I'll bet if you tested this, they'd find oil in it," he said, rubbing some of the foam in his fingers. He added that he was advised by a police officer not to fish in the surf.
But a dispatcher for the town's police department, Celeste Mundale, said the beach remained open for swimming, fishing and all other recreational activity.

"We're kind of playing it day by day," she said. "We have people calling to ask if it's going to be open next month."

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