8 Jun 2010

Well cap capturing less than half leaking oil

6:24 pm on 8 June 2010

United States President Barack Obama has used tough language to defend his approach to the disastrous spill from a BP-operated oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico.

He says he's frequently consulted with experts in order to learn "whose ass to kick", the BBC reports.

In an interview with the NBC network, he said: "I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers so I know whose ass to kick." .

BP says it is making slow but steady progress in containing the leak but the US Coast Guard chief says cleaning up marshlands affected by the spill will take years.

Admiral Thad Allen says BP needed to do better at getting money to people and businesses affected by the spill

Coast Guard officials say a cap on the damaged well is now keeping up to 1.7 million litres of oil a day from leaking into the water, about double the amount being contained before the weekend.

While BP plans to double that to nearly 3.2 million litres a day, the officials say the ruptured pipe is still leaking as much as 3.5 million litres of oil a day.

Much of that is washing ashore in several states along the Gulf - mainly Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi but also, now, Florida.

After meeting with his advisers at the White House on Monday morning, President Obama expressed confidence that the Gulf Coast region will recover from the worst oil spill in the nation's history.

He's urging BP to prepare contingency plans for the Caribbean hurricane season, however, in order to avoid disruption of its operation to contain the spill.

Fears estimates may be on low side

The latest figures underscore fears by some scientists that the US Government's latest estimate of the amount spilling out may be on the low side.

BP officials also concede that the well is unlikely to be completely plugged until August, when two nearby relief wells are due to be completed. The cleanup effort afterwards is expected to take months.

The spill was triggered when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank on 20 April, killing 11 workers.

Meanwhile, a natural gas pipeline exploded in North Texas when an electrical crew hit it while digging a hole. There are conflicting reports about fatalities.