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Gulf oil spill: Relief well is ahead of schedule

June 17, 2010 | 11:17 am

Work on the relief well, the ultimate solution to stopping the gulf oil spill, is slightly ahead of schedule, and BP expects to be able to collect up to 80,000 barrels of oil a day by late July, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Thursday.

Collection systems have been capturing up to 16,000 barrels of oil per day but that could increase to 28,000 barrels a day by "sometime early next week," said Allen, the Obama administration's point man on the spill. A government group has estimated that between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels a day is gushing from the well.

BP also plans to make the recovery operation more hurricane-proof with a new system of production platforms and shuttle tankers. A fleet of tankers was en route "from as far away as the North Sea and Brazil," Allen said. "But to make this operation work we will have to put in more flexible moorings and pipes with flexible hoses," he said.

In the meantime, the relief well, BP's ongoing effort to tap into the busted well head with a shaft and plug it with mud and cement is moving forward, Allen said. The interception shaft was about 1,000 feet away from the well on Thursday. BP has said that the relief will be complete in August.

"We are going down to the very bottom of the well bore for this intercept," Allen said. "Hopefully, at that point, we will start pumping mud in and fill the well bore … then put enough weight into the mud to hold the oil in the reservoir and put a plug in it."

-- Louis Sahagun in New Orleans

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