Energy giant BP yesterday marked its first success at containing oil that is gushing unabated into the Gulf of Mexico and said it may be able to stop the flow permanently in about a week.

 

But reports of huge oil plumes in the Gulf — including one as large as 10 miles long, three miles wide and 300 feet thick — underscored the spill’s environmental impact as the crisis moved into its 24th day.

 

Crude oil has been gushing unchecked into the sea from a ruptured well about a mile under the ocean’s surface, threatening an ecological and economic calamity along the Gulf Coast.

 

After other attempts to contain the spill failed, BP succeeded in inserting a tube into the leaking well and capturing some oil and gas.

 

The underwater operation involved guiding robots to insert a small tube into a 21-inch pipe, known as a riser, to funnel the oil to a ship at the surface.


“It’s working as planned and we are very slowly increasing the rate that is coming from the riser tool up to the surface,” BP senior executive vice president Kent Wells told reporters at BP’s U.S. headquarters in Houston.


“So we do have oil and gas coming to the ship now,” he said.


Not all of the oil was being trapped, however. Wells said it was too early to say how much had been siphoned.


Preparations for a maneuver to inject mud into the well to stop the leak for good were ongoing and would be completed in seven to 10 days, he said.