This June 23, 2010, image shows oil flowing after a cap containing some crude oil was removed. (CBS)
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Oil had spewed uncontrolled into the Gulf of
Mexico for much of the day Wednesday before engineers reattached a
cap being used to contain the gusher and direct some of the crude
to a surface ship.
The logistics coordinator onboard the Discoverer Enterpriser,
the ship that has been siphoning the oil, told The Associated Press
that after more than 10 hours, the system was again collecting the
crude. The crewmember, speaking from the bridge of the ship, said
the cap was placed back on the gusher around 8 p.m. CDT. He asked
not to be identified by name because he was not authorized to
provide the information.
BP later confirmed the cap was back in place, but said it had
been hooked up about an hour and half earlier. The coordinator said
it would take a little time for the system to "get ramped back
Most recently, the system, which has been in place since June 4,
was sucking up about 29,000 gallons an hour, crude that spewed back
into the Gulf on Wednesday unabated. At that rate, it could mean
about 290,000 extra gallons escaped into the water before the
system restarted. Another ship was still collecting a smaller
amount of oil and burning it on the surface.
BP engineers removed the cap after the mishap because fluid
seemed to be leaking, creating a possible safety hazard because of
the flames above, and they were concerned ice-like crystals might
The latest problem with the nine-week effort to stop the gusher
came as thick pools of oil washed up on Pensacola Beach in Florida
and the Obama administration sought to resurrect a six-month
moratorium on deepwater drilling.
In court papers, the Justice Department said it has asked a
judge to delay a court ruling by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman
in New Orleans that overturned the moratorium. The Interior
Department imposed it last month after the disaster, halting
approval of any new permits for deepwater projects and suspending
drilling on 33 exploratory wells.
Under the worst-case scenario, as much as 104,000 gallons an
hour - 2.5 million gallons a day - is flowing from the site where
the offshore rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20, killing 11
Bob Dudley, the BP managing director who took over the spill
response from his company's embattled CEO Wednesday, had said
earlier that engineers expected to replace the cap in less than a
"It's a disruption, and the crew again did exactly the right
thing because they were concerned about safety," he said. "It's a
setback, and now we will go back into operation and show how this
technology can work."
When the robot bumped into the equipment just before 10 a.m.,
gas rose through a vent that carries warm water down to prevent
ice-like crystals from forming in the machinery, Coast Guard Adm.
Thad Allen said.
Crews were checking to see if the crystals called hydrates had
formed before attempting to put the cap back on.
Ed Overton, a professor emeritus of environmental science at
Louisiana State University, said he suspects crews are pumping air
into the line to flush out any water before they try to reattach
"It sounds pretty easy and straightforward, but nothing is easy
and straightforward when you're doing it remotely from a mile
away," he said.
In May, a similar problem doomed the effort to put a bigger
containment device over the blown-out well. BP had to abandon the
four-story box after the crystals clogged it, threatening to make
it float away.
The smaller cap had worked until now. To get it to the seafloor,
though, crews had to slice away a section of the leaking pipe,
meaning the flow of oil could be stronger now than before.
Meanwhile, pools of oil washed up along miles of national park
and Pensacola Beach shoreline and health advisories against
swimming and fishing in the once-pristine waters were extended for
33 miles east from the Alabama border.
"It's pretty ugly, there's no question about it," Gov. Charlie
The oil had a chemical stench as it baked in the afternoon heat.
The beach looked as if it had been paved with a 6-foot-wide ribbon
of asphalt, much different from the tar balls that washed up two
"This used to be a place where you could come and forget about
all your cares in the world," said Nancy Berry, who fought back
tears as she watched her two grandsons play in the sand far from
Park rangers in the Gulf Islands National Seashore helped to
rescue an oily young dolphin found beached in the sand.
Ranger Bobbie Visnovske said a family found the dolphin
Wednesday, and wildlife officers carried it into shallow water for
immediate resuscitation. They later transported it to a
rehabilitation center in Panama City, about 100 miles to the east.
The Obama administration was plotting its next steps Wednesday
on the drilling halt. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a
statement that within the next few days he would issue a new order
imposing a moratorium that eliminates any doubt it is needed and
"It's important that we don't move forward with new drilling
until we know it can be done in a safe way," he told a Senate
Attorneys for the oilfield services companies that sued over the
moratorium filed court papers accusing the Obama administration of
ignoring Feldman's decision. They said Salazar's comments about a
new moratorium have had a chilling effect on the resumption of
Several companies, including Shell and Marathon Oil, said they
would await the outcome of any appeals before they start drilling