HOUSTON, May 24 (UPI) -- British oil producer BP said Monday it would commit up to $500 million to study the impact of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP said on its Web site the money would be spent on research into the oil spill's impact on the gulf's marine and shoreline environment over the next 10 years.
"BP has made a commitment to doing everything we can to lessen the impact of this tragic incident on the people and environment of the Gulf Coast," BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward said. 'We must make every effort to understand that impact. This will be a key part of the process of restoration, and for improving the industry response capability for the future."
BP said the research will include determining where the crude oil, the dispersed oil and the dispersants are being carried by underwater currents, and their impact on the ecology.
The oil company said it also wants to determine how accidental releases of oil compare to natural seepage of oil from the seabed, whether the dispersant of oil helps or hinders its biodegradation, what effect tropical storms have on the oil slick and what can be done to improve technology.
BP said it was giving its first grant to Louisiana State University.
The company said its efforts to stop the gushing of crude oil from a mile below the gulf surface continued along with work to control the widening oil plume that's reached the Gulf Coast shoreline. It said the next option it will try to plug the leak is a so-called top kill operation in which heavy drilling fluids are injected into the well, followed by sealing with concrete.
"Most of the equipment is on site and preparations continue for this operation, with a view to deployment in a few days," BP said.
"This is a complex operation requiring sophisticated diagnostic work and precise execution. As a result, it involves significant uncertainties and it is not possible to assure its success or to put a definite timescale on its deployment."
Drilling of two relief wells continues, BP said, with completion still months away.
BP said the cost of responding to the disaster so far is $760 million.
"It is too early to quantify other potential costs and liabilities associated with the incident," the company said.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., has a counter on his official Web site that estimated 35.2 million gallons of oil had leaked from the well since the April 20 explosion that sank the oil rig, killing 11 workers.