| GEO Business|
| US oil production, shipping unaffected by spill so far|
| Updated at: 0905 PST, Sunday, May 02, 2010|
WASHINGTON: The Gulf of Mexico spill has not significantly disrupted US oil and gas production or vital shipping lanes along the southern US coast, the admiral leading the response effort said Saturday.
Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen said the giant oil slick lying off Louisiana was likely to hit the Gulf Coast shoreline "at some point" and admitted the leaking well would cause an "extraordinary amount of problems."
There's enough oil out there, it's logical to assume it will impact the shoreline," Allen said. "The question is where and when."
After two natural gas platforms halted production and one was evacuated as a safety precaution, Allen stressed that production in the region, which accounts for a major proportion of US oil and gas, was not seriously affected.
"There has not been a significant impact on production," he told reporters on a conference call.
Allen also said the oil spill had not yet had an effect on key shipping lanes heading toward the Mississippi Rivers and major ports like Pascagoula, Mississippi.
"Where the current trajectory of the oil spill sits right now -- maybe this is actually one of the good things that's happened -- it's actually between all the (shipping) fairways."
Heavy onshore winds were complicating efforts to contain the massive oil slick as University of Miami researchers said satellite images showed the slick had tripled to cover an area the size of Puerto Rico.
"We're not going to rest until these leaks are stopped," said President Barack Obama's counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, rebutting criticism that the federal response had been slow.
British energy giant BP, which operated the Deepwater Horizon oil rig before it exploded, caught fire and sank last week leaving 11 workers dead, plans to use chemical dispersants underwater to limit the impact from the ruptured well.
Allen said officials were still evaluating the potential impact of the new technique on the fragile Gulf Coast ecosystem and that "this could be the way to go" if it was found to have no significant effect on the wildlife.
But he noted that spill mitigation efforts have been hampered by the sheer logistical challenge of stopping oil from spewing out of the well 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) below the surface.
"One of the real problems we are having working in that area is what I would call the tyranny of distance and the tyranny of depth. Trying to get some of these technologies at that depth with remotely operated vehicles has proven to be somewhat of a challenge."
He said the riser pipe was already crimped about two feet above the stack, where the blowout preventers are placed above the well head.
BP was looking at possibly further crimping the pipe or cutting it off and placing another blowout preventer above it, but Allen said that would be riskier than current plans to build a giant dome to place over the ruptured well.
Engineers are expected to finish constructing the dome within two to four weeks.
The company has asked the US military to provide any robotic submarines that are better than the six it is currently using to try and shut off the well.
It is also seeking access to the military's sophisticated satellite imaging equipment to help track the slick.
Two C-130 cargo aircraft with Modular Aerial Spray Systems (MASS) lent to the spill mitigation efforts by the Department of Defense can cover 250 acres (101 hectares) of oil with dispersants per flight, with three flights per aircraft planned for each day.