With the failure of BP's top kill procedure to plug the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, analysts say the cost of containment and clean-up of the disaster could exceed $3 billion the next two months, not including compensation claims. Government officials say the leak could continue into August.
BP has already spent a near $1 billion on clean-up and containment efforts, and the government estimates more than 12,000 barrels of oil is leaking every day into the Gulf of Mexico. Higher estimates peg the flow at 95,000 barrels a day, or four million gallons, according to the U.K.'s Telegraph. If it continues leaking until August, the well would have shed 2.3 million barrels of crude, which amounts to four days worth of travel for the cars and trucks on American roads.
Other groups are adding to the cost to protect the environment. Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu said yesterday BP should pledge another billion dollars to immediately pay for protecting Gulf wetlands.
On CBS's "Face the Nation", White House energy advisor Carol Browner confirmed that the oil leak will likely continue. "I think what the American people need to know is that it is possible we'll have oil leaking from this well until August, when the relief wells will be finished."
BP's latest effort to plug the leak involves using undersea robots to place a containment cap over the damaged pipe, which could take a week to complete. The robots would make a clean cut to the pipe in order to connect it to another pipe and redirect the flow to a separate containment system. Relief wells would not be completed until August.
Hurriances add uncertainty to relief well method
The onset of the hurricane season adds uncertainty to the use of two relief wells to stop the leak, a move BP is calling its next best hope to end the crisis. The process would involve sinking pipes down to the oil reservoir to divert the flow, which could take another two months to complete.
Chris Skrebowski with Peak Oil Consulting says the time estimate makes sense. "Obviously the drilling of the relief wells would be affected if hurricanes came in. You have to disconnect the rigs, you have to make them safe . You can't go on drilling in a hurricane. So that would institute further delays."