| GEO Business|
| Storm still fouling BP oil spill response in Gulf|
| Updated at: 0815 PST, Saturday, July 03, 2010|
HOUSTON: Rough seas and winds continue to disrupt spill responders' efforts to contain the oil gushing from BP PLC's (BP, BP.LN) well in the Gulf of Mexico two days after Hurricane Alex made landfall hundreds of miles away from the spill site, the U.S. Coast Guard said Friday.
More bad weather is expected to slow the work over the weekend, the Coast Guard said.
Alex, which ranked as a Category One, or the weakest possible hurricane, has delayed by about six days the hookup of a third oil containment vessel. If all goes well the Helix Producer, which is already at the well site, should be on line July 7 and should be able to produce about 20,0000 to 25,0000 barrels of oil a day, Retired Adm. Thad Allen, the federal response commander, said during a news conference.
The delay means that between 120,000 to 150,000 barrels of oil could go uncollected, Allen said. Alex hit northern Mexico about 100 miles south of Brownsville, Texas.
The foul weather is also the likely the cause of the reduction in the capacity of the containment ship, the Q4000, Allen said. The ship can normally flare off 10,000 barrels of oil a day but has been achieving about 25% less than its average rates during the storm.
BP and the government response team are working on plans to strengthen their collection system in order to make it more hurricane-ready, however, most of those plans have hinged on a storm arriving in the height of the Gulf Coast's hurricane season, which normally falls between mid-August and mid-September. Alex's early arrival and the threat of more storms to follow underscores the fragility of the operations.
On Thursday, BP recovered a total of 25,150 barrels of oil. About 16,915 of those barrels were collected by the Discoverer Enterprise, the main containment vessel. The Q4000 flared off about 8,235 barrels of oil.
About 57 million cubic feet of natural gas was flared as well. Government and independent scientists estimate that about 35,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil a day are flowing from the well. The gusher started in late April when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank, killing 11 people.
The remnants of Alex also continue to halt near-shore skimming operations, Allen said.
Coast Guard Admiral Paul Zukunft in New Orleans said that the bad weather has prevented about 20,000 barrels of oil a day from either being skimmed or in situ burned for the last two days. Protective booming has also been dislodged.