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BP May Have Third Ship Collecting Oil in Three Days

July 8 (Bloomberg) -- BP Plc may start collecting oil aboard a third vessel near its leaking Gulf of Mexico well in two or three days, National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen said.

The Helix Producer I, which has the capacity to double the oil collected at the site, may be connected to the Macondo well in the next 48 hours if weather is good, Allen said today at a press conference in Theodore, Alabama.

“It appears that today we will get the sea state we need to finish that hook-up,” Allen said.

The vessel, owned by Houston-based Helix Energy Solutions Group Inc., would be able to capture 25,000 barrels a day from the leaking well. BP collected 24,575 barrels yesterday using two ships already connected. The well is gushing 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day, a government-led panel of scientists has estimated.

The well began leaking after an April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig, resulting in the deaths of 11 workers. BP, based in London, leased the drilling rig from Transocean Ltd.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Energy Secretary Steven Chu will attend a meeting in Houston tomorrow to discuss plans to replace the current cap on the well with one that would fit tighter and capture more of the oil spilling into the Gulf.

Good Weather Window

Allen has asked BP to provide a detailed plan of action in the next 24 hours for changing the cap. A decision may come on whether to replace the cap in the next few days, he said. BP may be able to take advantage of a seven- to 10-day window of good weather predicted for the area to swap out the cap.

Hurricane Alex, the first named storm of the Atlantic season, missed the spill site in the Gulf. A tropical depression expected to bring as much as 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain to parts of Texas and Mexico also will miss the Macondo well, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Better weather has allowed skimmers to return to work, collecting oil off the surface of the water, Allen said.

BP rose for the fourth straight day in London trading, the longest winning streak since the spill began. Shares jumped as much as 3.6 percent to 375 pence before closing at 367 pence in London.

During the transfer of the cap, the Helix Producer and the Q4000, a Helix-owned rig that’s burning oil and natural gas from the well, would continue to capture crude, Allen said last week.

Relief Wells

Allen said the timeline for stopping the leak permanently remains mid-August. BP Managing Director Robert Dudley said that in ideal circumstances the well might be killed by July 27, the Wall Street Journal reported today.

The first of two relief wells being dug to kill the well is within “a couple of hundred feet” and may intercept Macondo in the next seven to 10 days, Allen said. If oil is gushing outside of the pipe, it may require more time to stop the leak, he said.

If both relief wells fail, the U.S. is exploring whether to pipe oil from BP’s well into idle fields 2 miles to 5 miles (3.2 kilometers to 8 kilometers) away from the leak, Allen said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Allison Bennett in New York at abennett23@bloomberg.net; Jim Polson in New York at jpolson@bloomberg.net.

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

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