JEFFREY COLLINS and JASON DEAREN write for Associated Press,
HAMMOND, La. — In a significant step toward containing a massive Gulf of Mexico oil leak, BP said a mile-long tube was funneling crude Sunday from a blown well to a tanker ship after three days of wrestling to get the stopgap measure into place on the seafloor.
Yet even as the company reported the success after weeks of fruitless efforts, scientists warned oil that has already spewed into the Gulf could have dire consequences for the environment. Computer models show the black ooze may have already entered a major current flowing toward the Florida Keys, a researcher told the Associated Press on Sunday.
The contraption used by BP was hooked up successfully and sucking oil from a pipe at the blown well Sunday afternoon after being hindered by several setbacks. Engineers remotely guiding robot submersibles had worked since Friday to place the tube into a 21-inch pipe nearly a mile below the sea.
Kent Wells, BP’s senior vice president for exploration and production, said during a news conference that the amount being drawn was gradually increasing, and it would take several days to measure it. Company spokesman Mark Proegler at the joint spill command center in Louisiana had initially said the tube was containing most of the oil coming from the pipe, which is contributing an estimated 85 percent of the crude in the spill.
Previous attempts to use emergency valves and a 100-ton container had failed to stop the leak that has spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, threatening sea life, commercial fishing and the coastal tourism industry from Louisiana to Florida. BP PLC has also been burning small amounts of floating oil and spraying chemical dispersants above and below the surface.
The tube’s success gave crews partial control of the leak for the first time in more than three weeks. Still, Wells offered a tempered response to the news.