U.S. Sees 200-Barrel Oil Spill; Well Isn’t Leaking

April 23 (Bloomberg) -- 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.

Smith International Inc., the oilfield-services provider that agreed in February to be acquired by Schlumberger Ltd., said today that two of five workers aboard the Deepwater Horizon for the companies’ M-I Swaco joint venture are still missing. The three other employees have returned to their families, according to Smith’s statement.

Leak Stopped

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.

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.

Pipeline Shut

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 40 cents to $89.89 at 4:15 p.m. in composite trading on the New York Stock Exchange. BP rose 3.3 pence to 639.7 pence in London.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan Warren at susanwarren@bloomberg.net.