BP Pauses Cutting Oil Pipe After Saw Blade Gets Stuck

BP Plc stopped cutting the main pipe from its leaking Gulf of Mexico oil well because of a stuck saw blade, a problem that should delay the work a few hours, U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said.

The diamond-saw blade is making a second, finer cut on the riser pipe from the well’s blowout preventer, the five-story stack of safety valves. The cut is a precursor to lowering a new cap on the leak, about a mile underwater, to route the oil to ships on the surface.

The setback with the blade may lead to a looser fit and a higher rate of oil leakage between the blowout preventer and cap, Allen said today at a press conference in Houma, Louisiana. BP, based in London, will decide today whether a coarser blade is required, he said.

“The cleaner the cut, the tighter the seal we can make on it,” Allen said. The goal is to finish the cut “later on today” and then “be able to put a containment device over the top of the wellhead and start containing the oil,” he said.

The oil spill, the biggest in U.S. history, so far has soiled about 100 miles (161 kilometers) of coastline, halted new exploratory deep-water drilling in the Gulf, shut down a third of its fishing areas and cost BP almost $1 billion. Allen said yesterday that BP and government officials have given up trying to plug the well earlier than August, when a relief well can intercept the damaged hole.

Photographer: Joshua Drake/BP Plc via Bloomberg

Response workers are seen studying a map at BP Plc's new Command Center in Mobile. Close

Response workers are seen studying a map at BP Plc's new Command Center in Mobile.

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Open
Photographer: Joshua Drake/BP Plc via Bloomberg

Response workers are seen studying a map at BP Plc's new Command Center in Mobile.

Four-Day Job?

“There’s a very good chance they would be able to siphon off as much as 90 percent if it’s a clean job,” Nansen Saleri, chief executive officer of Quantum Reservoir Impact in Houston, a consulting company that helps oil companies improve production. “They should be able to do it in three or four days. If they can’t, I’m afraid you have to wait for late July or early August.”

Saleri was chief of reservoir management for Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company.

Oil from the spill has hit Mississippi’s barrier islands for the first time, and tar balls and sheen have landed in Alabama, Allen said today. In Florida, the Department of Environmental Protection said today that tar balls had been confirmed 10 miles off western Escambia County, which includes Pensacola Beach.

“We are deploying skimmers offshore to try and intercept the sheen and any emulsified oil,” Allen said in Louisiana. “We are also redeploying boom.”

BP fell 0.25 pence to 429.76 pence in London trading. The shares fell 13 percent yesterday, the most since 1992. The shares have fallen 34 percent since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded April 20 and sank two days later, killing 11 workers and causing the spill.

BP failed in its first effort to capture oil from the well, using a 40-foot-tall containment box. The company removed a tube that was capturing a portion of the flow when it began its failed “top kill” effort to stop the flow using drilling mud and cement.

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

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