THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Despite setback, BP confident new try to stop spill will work

Tube to suck oil from well to ship is being adjusted

Veterinarians working for the US Fish & Wildlife Service bathed a brown pelican yesterday at Fort Jackson Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Buras, La. The bird is one of eight rescued so far soiled with oil caused by the BP oil spill. Veterinarians working for the US Fish & Wildlife Service bathed a brown pelican yesterday at Fort Jackson Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Buras, La. The bird is one of eight rescued so far soiled with oil caused by the BP oil spill. (Hans Deryk/ Reuters)
By Jeffrey Collins
Associated Press / May 16, 2010

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ROBERT, La. — BP was confident yesterday that its latest attempt to capture much of the oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico will succeed even as the company disclosed yet another setback in their experiments to curb one of the nation’s worst environmental disasters.

BP believes it can hook up its mile-long tube to suck oil from a blown-out well, despite an earlier snag with connecting two pieces of equipment. If successful, it would be the first time the company has captured any of the oil since a rig sank April 22 and millions of gallons of crude started spewing into the ocean.

The company also began spraying dispersants beneath the sea yesterday and said the chemicals appear to have reduced the amount of surface oil. The spraying is a contentious development because it has never been done underwater.

Technicians have been working since early Friday to insert the tube into an oil pipe a mile beneath the surface using robotic submarines. The tube is intended to suck oil up like a straw to a tanker on the surface, while a stopper surrounding it would keep crude from leaking into the sea.

Engineers trying to connect the lengthy tube to framework on the bottom of the ocean ran into trouble Friday, BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said. The framework had to be brought to the surface to be adjusted.

The framework was returned to the ocean floor, and engineers were attempting again to hook it up. They hoped to start bringing up oil by last night, Suttles said.

If it works, BP thinks it would contain more than three-quarters of the leak. A smaller leak is several thousand feet away at the site of the blowout preventer.

The insertion tube and dispersants are the latest of several efforts to fight the massive spill. The company has also tried to contain the leak with a 100-ton box and burn small amounts of oil at the surface.

On Friday, federal regulators approved the underwater use of the chemical dispersants, which act like a detergent to break the oil into small globules and allows it to disperse more quickly into the water or air before it comes ashore.

The decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to allow the chemicals to be used below the surface angered state officials and fishermen, who complained that regulators ignored their concerns about negative effects on the environment and fish.

“The EPA is conducting a giant experiment with our most productive fisheries by approving the use of these powerful chemicals on a massive, unprecedented scale,’’ John Williams, executive director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, said in a news release.

The shrimpers’ concerns come a day after Louisiana Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine sent a letter to BP outlining similar concerns. BP and the Coast Guard said several tests were done before approval was given.

“We didn’t cross this threshold lightly,’’ Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry said. “This is a tool that will be analyzed and monitored.’’

Meanwhile, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano asked BP to make clear in public whether ir will limit how much it pays for cleaning up the spill and compensating people hurt by it.

In a letter to BP’s chief executive, Tony Hayward, she noted that he and other executives have said they are taking full responsibility for cleaning up the spill and will pay what they call “legitimate’’ claims.