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Gulf oil spill: Government tells BP to come up with speedier containment plans within 48 hours

June 12, 2010 |  1:10 pm

The federal government has given BP until the end of the weekend to find ways to speed up efforts to contain huge amounts of oil gushing from a ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a letter released Saturday.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. James A. Watson sent a letter to BP officials on Friday expressing frustration with the overall pace of the effort and ordered the company to identify ways to expedite the process in the coming days. "Recognizing the complexity of this challenge, every effort must be expended to speed up the process," Watson wrote in the letter, sent to Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer.

BP has struggled with several efforts to contain the oil. The latest cap installed on the blown-out well is capturing about 15,000 barrels of oil a day, but large quantities are still spilling into the sea.

The Coast Guard initially sent a letter to BP on Wednesday asking for more details on its plans to contain the oil. BP responded, saying a new system to trap oil spewing from the well should be complete by mid-July. That system's new design is meant to better withstand the force of hurricanes and could capture about 2-million gallons of oil daily when fully built, the oil giant said.

But Watson said he was concerned that BP's plans didn't maximize resources or "go far enough to mobilize redundant resources" in the event of an equipment failure or another problem. "BP must identify in the next 48 hours additional leak containment capacity that could be operationalized and expedited to avoid the continued discharge of oil," Watson wrote.

BP spokesman Jon Pack said the company received Watson's letter and would respond to it as soon as possible.

The letter and deadline comes just before President Barack Obama is set to visit the Gulf Coast on Monday and Tuesday. On Saturday, Obama reassured British Prime Minister David Cameron that his frustration over the oil spill in the Gulf was not an attack on Britain, the British government said.

The two leaders spoke by phone for 30 minutes Saturday to soothe trans-Atlantic tensions over the huge spill. Cameron also has been under pressure to get Obama to tone down the criticism, fearing it will hurt the millions of British retirees that hold BP stock.

-- Associated Press

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