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Gulf oil spill: New oil containment effort to begin Saturday

July 9, 2010 |  1:22 pm
BP will begin a complicated operation Saturday to install a new cap over the leaking well and additional ships are in place to collect the oil. The efforts could contain most of the spill in the coming week.

Undersea robots will begin removing a six-bolt cap mounted over the jagged remnants of the wellhead Saturday. They will then put a new, tighter containment cap over the well. Up to four ships are on standby to begin collecting oil, said Lt. John Budiao, with the U.S. Coast Guard.

After the old cap is removed, oil will gush unimpeded until the new one is installed. Attaching the new cap could take between three and four days, said Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen.

The procedure is complicated because of the depth of the operation, the equipment being used and the amount of oil gushing from the sea floor. The tools used in the operation have never been used except in space exploration, Budiao said.

Meanwhile, work continues on drilling the relief well that will intersect with the leaking well and stop the spill by pumping mud and cement into it. The relief well is about two weeks ahead of schedule and is expected to be complete sometime in mid-August, weather permitting.

 -- Nicole Santa Cruz in New Orleans