BP Seeking to Stop One Leak From Gulf Well

BP Plc hopes today to stop one of three leaks from its Gulf of Mexico well that has been spurting oil since an offshore rig burned and sank April 22, Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of exploration and production, said.

Crews using remote-operated vehicles will attempt to stop a leak in the crumpled 5,000 foot drill pipe by installing a valve, Suttles said today at a press conference. BP closed a valve atop the well-control unit on the sea floor and it failed to seal, Suttles said. He dismissed as inaccurate a statement earlier today by a BP spokesman that the flow had been reduced.

“You would see me doing cartwheels down the hallway if that were actually the case,” Suttles said. Cameron International Corp., maker of the well-control unit, called a blowout preventer, and Transocean Ltd., owner of the sunken rig, rose after press reports of the comment by Jeff Childs, a deputy to Suttles.

BP began drilling a relief well yesterday aimed at the bottom of the leaking well, where crews plan to inject cement to seal it, Suttles said. That work is expected to take as long as three months. In the meantime, the company aims to install custom-built 65-ton containment structures in about a week, which are designed to capture the leaking oil and pump it to vessels on the surface, he said.

Planes Grounded

Bad weather has prevented BP and the U.S. Coast Guard from assessing the effectiveness of underwater dispersant the company has been injecting near the leaks. Weather also grounded planes spraying aerial dispersant, kept skimming vessels in port and kept inspectors away from shoreline that may have been polluted by oil, he said.

There’ve been no confirmed reports of oil hitting shore, he said.

Winds should keep the slick away from shore tomorrow, Charlie Henry, a forecaster for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. The thickest part of the slick is 30 miles from the Mississippi River delta in Louisiana, Henry told reporters in an interview after today’s press conference.

Separately, Southwest Pass, the main deep-water entrance into the Mississippi River, is expected to remain clear of oil through May 6, the Port of New Orleans said today in a statement. That section of the river is the largest commercial waterway for commodities in the U.S.

BP will make $25 million “block grants” to Louisiana and other affected states to ensure they have cash to pay cleanup workers, Suttles said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jim Polson in New York at jpolson@bloomberg.net; Katarzyna Klimasinska in Houston at kklimasinska@bloomberg.net.

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