Gulf oil spill: Progress on leak containment being made, federal officials say
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Federal officials said Sunday that engineers have succeeded in vacuuming up some of the oil that has been leaking from the Deepwater Horizon’s drilling well, the first progress in containing the BP spill since the Horizon exploded and sank last month.
The apparent success, announced by the Unified Area Command for spill response, came overnight. Undersea robots inserted a four-inch pipe into the Horizon well’s ‘riser,’ which is leaking several thousand barrels of oil a day into the gulf.
The so-called insertion tube siphoned oil from the well up to the ocean surface 5,000 feet above and into the belly of the drill ship Discoverer Enterprise. Natural gas that flowed up with the oil was burned aboard the ship, officials said.
Efforts to insert the tube had failed on Friday and Saturday. Even Sunday’s success was interrupted when the tube became dislodged, officials said, but engineers subsequently reinserted it.
Officials offered no immediate estimate of how much oil has been diverted so far, except to say ‘some’ oil and gas had made it to the ship. BP had previously expressed hope that the tube tactic could divert up to three-fourths of the leak while engineers continue working to plug the well permanently.
‘While not collecting all of the leaking oil, this tool is an important step in reducing the amount of oil being released into Gulf [of Mexico] waters,’ the command center said in a news release.
-- Jim Tankersley in Houston