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Saw stuck cutting BP wellhead is freed

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Saw stuck cutting BP wellhead is freed
A frame grab of the live video stream of operations to stop the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is seen on June 2, 2010. Yesterday's attempt to cut a pipeline in preparation for capping it failed when the diamond-edged saw stuck. Officials said it may take months to fully seal the leak, which has already devastated the Gulf Coast. UPI/BP

VENICE, La., June 2 (UPI) -- BP's efforts to slice off the riser pipe of its runaway Gulf of Mexico oil well ran into a snag Wednesday when the saw blade got stuck, officials said.

The British energy giant freed the cutter several hours later but there was no indication when the attempt to cut through the pipe would resume, CNN reported. Changing weather patterns raised concern more oil from the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster might be pushed toward Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, the network said.

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The diamond wire saw blade that was caught in the pipe was being used in an effort to make a clean cut through the well head so a cap can be affixed to stem the flow of oil that has been spewing into the gulf since April 20 when the oil platform exploded, killing 11 oil workers. The rig sank two days later.

BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles told CNN late Tuesday the vast majority of leaking oil should be captured if the plan succeeds. Estimates of the size of the leak range from 5,000 barrels to 19,000 barrels a day. If the procedure fails, the oil flow could increase by 20 percent.

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Rust-colored oil started washing ashore on the barrier islands off Alabama and Mississippi Tuesday.

The disaster is taking its toll on BP investors. The company has lost 15 percent, or $21.1 billion, of market value since the disaster began.

Even though analysts said the oil giant can afford the mounting claims and cleanup costs, uncertainty has surrounded the company, especially after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department has started criminal and civil investigations, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

BP, the world's fourth-largest company, lost $74.4 billion, or 40 percent, of its market value in six weeks. Investment firm Raymond James nearly tripled its early-May estimate of the cost to BP in 2010 and 2011 to $7.5 billion.

"Spiraling costs are getting more and more out of control. And we thought this thing was going to be stemmed far before today and we're still waiting on that," energy research analyst Alex Morris said.

The Justice Department told a federal judge it opposed a request by Transocean, the Swiss owner of the rig leased by BP, to limit its liability to $27 million under an 1851 maritime law.

Besides the possibility of federal prosecution, BP could face state prosecution, the Post said.

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"If BP cut corners in destroying our gulf, somebody will pay and it won't just be money -- they will certainly be subjected to criminal laws," said Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. "From what I've seen, a grand jury needs to review this thing."

Meanwhile, calls for punishing BP grew, the Post said.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, "BP should pay. Not just for the cleanup, but for the lives lost and the natural treasures destroyed."

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