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BP still struggling to fix leak


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ROBERT – BP PLC is hurriedly devising yet another mix of risky undersea robot manoeuvres and containment devices to fight the worst oil spill in United States history, after the most ambitious bid yet to stop the Gulf of Mexico gusher ended in failure.Six weeks after the catastrophe began, oil giant BP PLC is still casting about for a way to slow down the spewing, blown-out well underneath the Gulf of Mexico that’s fouling beaches, wildlife and marshland. A relief well being drilled that’s considered the most reliable solution is at least two months away.President Barack Obama on Saturday called the latest failure to stop the mess “as enraging as it is heartbreaking”.The latest bid for a temporary fix ended in failure Saturday when BP said it was unable to overwhelm the broken well with heavy fluids and junk. The company determined the “top kill” had failed after it spent three days pumping heavy drilling mud into the crippled well 5 000 feet (1 520 metres) underwater.Now, BP hopes to saw through a pipe leading out from the well and cap it with a funnel-like device using the same remotely guided undersea robots that have failed in other tries to stop the gusher.The spill is the worst in United States history – exceeding even the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster – and has dumped between 18 million gallons (68 million litres) and 40 million gallons (150 million litres) into the Gulf, according to government estimates. The leak began after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in April, killing 11 people.“This scares everybody, the fact that we can’t make this well stop flowing, the fact that we haven’t succeeded so far,” BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said Saturday. “Many of the things we’re trying have been done on the surface before, but have never been tried at 5 000 feet.”Suttles said BP is already preparing for the next temporary fix. The company plans to use robot submarines to cut off the damaged riser, and then try to cap it with a containment valve. The effort is expected to take between four and seven days.“We’re confident the job will work but obviously we can’t guarantee success,” Suttles said of the new plan, declining to handicap the likelihood it will work.He said cutting off the damaged riser wasn’t expected to cause the flow rate of leaking oil to increase significantly.The supposed permanent solution to the leak, a relief well currently being drilled, won’t be ready until August, BP said. (AP)

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