Blazing Oil Rig Spilled 200 Barrels, Well Stops Leaking

A Transocean Ltd. drilling rig that caught fire and sank in the Gulf of Mexico has leaked about 200 barrels of petroleum and there’s no oil escaping from the well it had tapped, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

An oil sheen estimated earlier today at 100 square miles (259 square kilometers) is now 16 square miles after airplanes sprayed it with chemical dispersant and six vessels skimmed off 181 barrels of oil mixed with water, Ashley Butler, spokeswoman for the guard, said in a telephone interview.

Cameras and sonar aboard remote-operated vehicles have detected no oil escaping from the well the Deepwater Horizon rig was preparing to seal and abandon when the explosion occurred about 10 p.m. local time on April 20, Butler said. Oil from the rig, about 42 miles south of Louisiana’s coast, is nine days from shore based on its forecast rate of drift, she said.

“We are definitely going to stop it before that happens,” Butler said. Forecasters expect 40 percent of the oil to evaporate, she said.

The Coast Guard has not “100 percent confirmed” the leak from the well has stopped, she said. It is continuing its search for 11 workers missing from the rig, which was leased to BP Plc.

A leak in the well had “the potential to be a major spill,” David Rainey, London-based BP’s vice president for Gulf of Mexico production, said yesterday at a press conference in New Orleans.

BP hired a rig capable of drilling down to plug the well if necessary, he said. Before doing that, staff intended to try to close well valves on the sea floor with remote-operated vehicles.

Rig Blowout

The rig burned for more than 24 hours after the explosion that Geneva-based Transocean said may have been caused by a so- called blowout, an unexpected surge in pressure that ejected petroleum at the top of the well. The rig sank yesterday.

Of 126 workers aboard, 115 were rescued. If the missing workers died, it would be the deadliest U.S. offshore rig explosion since 1968, when 11 died and 20 were injured at a platform owned by Gulf Oil Corp., according to data from the Minerals Management Service. A 1987 helicopter crash aboard a Forest Oil Corp. platform killed 14 people.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s NaKika offshore oil platform and a pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico a mile away were shut in yesterday and remain closed as a precaution against the rig drifting into it and causing another spill, said Jill Davis, a company spokeswoman.

No other gulf production has been stopped by the spill, Butler said.

Transocean fell $2.30, or 2.6 percent, to $87.99 at 11:21 a.m. in composite trading on the New York Stock Exchange. BP rose 3.3 pence to 639.7 in London.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jim Polson in New York at jpolson@bloomberg.net.

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