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Gulf oil spill: Lightning-ignited fire halts oil collection system [Updated]

June 15, 2010 | 12:34 pm

A bolt of lightning struck the ship capturing oil from the blown-out BP well in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, igniting a fire that halted containment efforts in another setback for the embattled company in its nearly two-month struggle to stop the spill, the company said.

The fire was quickly extinguished and no one was injured. BP said it hopes to resume containing oil from the well sometime Tuesday afternoon. The fire occurred on the Discoverer Enterprise, where engineers are siphoning about 16,000 barrels of oil a day through a cap on top of the well.

“At the moment, there's no capture, no containment going on, but we'll start up the Enterprise when it's safe to do so,” BP spokesman Robert Wine said.

The company will use robotic submarines to survey the entire containment system, including the cap over the well, for possible damage from the fire. The fire occurred in a vent pipe leading from a tank on the Enterprise where processed oil is stored.

Louisiana has been hit with several storms and lightning strikes in the past day.

[Updated at 12:23 p.m.: BP had been planning to ramp up a second, complementary oil collection plan Tuesday that could take up to an additional 5,000 to 10,000 barrels of oil daily.

The company has promised the Coast Guard that in late June, it will have the technology in place to take up all of the estimated 35,000 to 40,000 barrels of oil that continue to spew from the undersea well.]

-- Richard Fausset in Atlanta

The Associated Press contributed to this report.