BP set to install bigger cap on leaking Gulf well

Fri Jul 9, 2010 7:50pm EDT
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By Dan Whitcomb and Jeff Mason

MALIBU, Calif./NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - BP was set on Friday to install a bigger cap that could contain almost all the oil leaking from its blownout Gulf of Mexico well, a top U.S. official said.

The Obama administration has been pressing the British energy giant to install the new cap, which could capture up to 80,000 barrels (3,360,000 gallons/12,700,00 liters) of oil a day, versus the 25,000 barrels currently being contained.

The government has estimated the well is leaking a maximum of 60,000 barrels a day, although independent estimates have been as high as 100,000 barrels a day.

Retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is overseeing the response to the spill, told a news conference that the well could be contained -- but not plugged -- by Sunday or Monday, when the cap was installed on top of it.

"When we have the cap on, and it's sealed and we know that we've got a seal, yes" (it will be contained), Allen said.

BP has been under enormous pressure to halt the oil, which has polluted coastlines on all five U.S. Gulf states, threatened multi-billion dollar fishing and tourism industries and killed birds, sea turtles and dolphins.

It is the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The company's costs for the spill likely will be tied to the amount of oil that ultimately flows out of the well.   Continued...