BP ROBOTS TO BEGIN NEXT ATTEMPT TO CURB SPILL

By NBF News
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BP Plc will use undersea robots to begin cutting damaged pipe from its leaking oil well off Louisiana as early as Monday, risking temporarily increasing the flow as it seeks to end the largest oil spill in the United States history, Bloomberg reported on Monday.

US Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved the latest procedure to attach a pipe to the leak so the oil can flow to a surface vessel for capturing, White House Energy Adviser Carol Browner said on Sunday. The decision comes after a three-day effort to plug the well failed.

'BP and the government have no choice but to proceed,' Jason Kenney, an analyst at ING Commercial Banking in Edinburgh, who has a 'buy' on the shares and owns none, said. 'This is war. As in all wars, it rarely goes smooth,' he added.

The failure to cap the well came as a congressional committee released reports by BP to federal officials of operation problems in the Macondo oil field six weeks before a blowout on April 20 destroyed Transocean Limited Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, killing 11 workers.

BP shares fell by 46 cents, or 7.7 per cent, to ยค5.37 in German trading as at 12.34pm local time. Trading in London was closed today. BP fell 5 per cent to 494.8 pence in London on May 28 and has lost 25 percent since the blast.

'The chances of success are probably comparable with top kill but the risks are higher because what they're going to do is cut off the existing riser which has been kinked on the sea- bed for the past month,' Geoffrey Maitland, a professor of energy engineering at Imperial College in London, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Monday.

Using remote-controlled vehicles at the mile-deep well, BP plans to shear away most of the damaged pipe that once rose from the well to the Deepwater Horizon. Then it will make a more precise cut with a diamond-toothed band saw, BP Managing Director, Mr. Robert Dudley said in television interviews on Sunday.

That will make a clean junction for a gasket-lined cap intended to catch most of the oil and route it to the surface through a pipe, Dudley said.

Engineers expect the method to work better than a smaller pipe used to capture 22,000 barrels of oil, he said.

'There is little else they can do right now, so they should try it,' Tad Patzek, Chair of petroleum and geosystems engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, Mr. Tad Patzek, said on Monday in an interview. 'The cap will be at the end of essentially a mile of pipe. It will be heavy and it may be bent as it is jerked around by the pressure of the escaping oil and gas,' he added.

The well has spewed from 12,000 barrels to 19,000 barrels of oil a day, a government panel estimated May 27.

Government experts estimate the spill will increase over the four to seven days BP needs to fix the cap, Browner said in a 'Face the Nation' interview yesterday on CBS.

'The worst is that we have oil leaking until August' when BP says it will complete the first of two so-called relief wells intended to plug the damaged well securely from the bottom, Browner said.