July 06, 2010 08:48
Oil producer BP says an oil spill that has fouled hundreds of kilometers of U.S. beaches and damaged the economies of four southeastern Gulf Coast states has now cost the company US$3.1 billion.
BP on Monday said the costs include $147 million in damage payments to people affected by the disaster. A report in Monday's New York Times newspaper says BP has asked two of its partners in the oil well to contribute $400 million toward cleanup costs.
Rough seas are slowing down efforts to deploy oil skimming and containment vessels. Weather forecasters predict waves of one to 2.5 m high through Thursday.
Taiwan company TMT Shipping Offshore has been testing a massive oil skimmer named A Whale in an area north of the undersea BP oil well that caused the spill. It said Monday that results from an initial 48-hour testing period were inconclusive because of the high seas.
The oil skimmer operates by swallowing up oil-polluted water, separating the oil and releasing cleaned water back into the sea. TMT has said A Whale can collect up to 500,000 barrels a day of contaminated water, far exceeding the capacity of smaller skimmers currently in use.
TMT said it will make technical adjustments to A Whale to improve its skimming effectiveness as the company continues testing the vessel in cooperation with the U.S. Coast Guard.
High waves also have delayed plans to connect a containment vessel named the Helix Producer to an undersea pipe linked to the ruptured oil well. Crews say the vessel could double the amount of oil being collected to up to 53,000 barrels a day.
The oil crisis began with an April 20 explosion on a drilling rig leased by BP that killed 11 workers. U.S. government estimates say the broken well is gushing up to 60,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf each day.
Britain's Sunday Times newspaper said BP wants to raise up to $9.1 billion to help it deal with the crisis by selling five to 10 percent of its shares to a strategic investor.
Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.
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