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Oil & Gas

BP Uses Robots to Cap Leak as US Oil Slick Spreads

April 26, 2010
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British oil giant BP used robotic underwater vehicles to try to cap a leaking well and prevent a growing oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico from developing into an environmental disaster, according to the Associated Foreign Press. Satellite images showed the slick had spread by 50 percent in a day to cover an area of 600 square miles, although officials said some 97-percent of the pollution was just a thin veneer on the sea''s surface. BP has dispatched skimming vessels to mop up the oil leaking from the debris of the Deepwater Horizon rig, which sank two days after a massive explosion left 11 workers missing and presumed dead. The company said at least four underwater robots, similar to scaled-down submarines, are being employed for a first-of-its-kind attempt to stop the leak by plugging up the leaking well. Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of BP Exploration & Production Suttles told a press conference outside New Orleans that workers will use a "blowout preventer" -- a piece of back-up equipment installed near the wellhead, but which has failed to function properly since the rig went down -- to try to plug the leaks. He also stated that if the attempt fails, it might take as long as two to three months to staunch the leaking well. BP said it was trying to activate the machine using remotely operated submersible vehicles. At the same time, it is also preparing to drill relief wells that would permanently shut off the oil flow. BP estimated that the leaks, some 5,000 feet down on the seabed, emanate from two holes in the riser that connects the wellhead to the sunken rig and are were releasing 1,000 barrels, 42,000 gallons, of oil a day.
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