BP: Cap in place; oil leak 'part of the design'

(CBS/AP)British Petroleum's latest efforts to contain the massive Gulf oil spill were going according to plan, despite the fact that oil appeared to continue spewing into the sea, a BP executive said Friday.

We do have the cap successfully in place. ... And the oil you see escaping right now is actually part of the design, BP's chief operating officer Doug Suttles told CBS The Early Show Friday. What we have is four vent valves on the top of this cap. We'll be successfully closing those vent valves through the course of the day. '

Suttles said the valves have been left open to avoid drawing water into the containment device. The company will begin closing the vents in an effort to capture the vast majority of the flow, Suttles said.

Suttles said the goal is to capture more than 90 percent of the flow, which has spewed between 21 million and 46 million gallons of oil since a rig exploded on April 20 about 50 miles from the Louisiana coast, killing 11 workers. BP was leasing the rig and is responsible to fix and clean up the spill.

BP also announced plans to provide a daily update on how much crude is being collected by their oil drillship Enterprise.

Things are going as planned, said BP senior vice president Kent Wells. We now have 12 hours of experience with this. It s never done at ,5000 feet before, but I am quite encouraged.

The cap was put into place later Thursday by robots a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico. The placement was a positive step but not a solution, said Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man for the disaster.

Even if successful, this is only a temporary and partial fix and we must continue our aggressive response operations at the source, on the surface and along the Gulf's precious coastline, Allen said in a statement.

A rubber seal on the inside of the cap will attempt to keep oil from escaping, though engineers acknowledge some crude will still come out. The plan is to capture most of the spewing oil and bring it to a surface ship.

To put the cap in place, BP had to slice off the pipe with giant shears, which was risky because it could temporarily increase the flow by as much as 20 percent. Also, the shears made a less-precise cut, making it more difficult for the lid to fit.

If the idea fails - like every other attempt to control the six-week-old leak - the best chance is probably a relief well, which is at least two months away.

On Thursday, the U.S. sent BP a $69 million bill, which accounts for three-quarters of the company's obligations to the government to date, reports CBS Radio News White House correspondent Peter Maer.

That figures, provided by the White House, include: $29 million for federal agencies to support operation of ships, aircrafts, environmental assessment and deployed personnel; $4 million for the Defense Department's support of salvage and removal efforts and operations of ships and aircraft; $29 million for National Guard Bureau to support activation of National Guard units in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida; $7 million for states' removal efforts.

In oil-soaked Grand Isle, Jason French might as well have painted a bulls-eye on his back. His mission was to be BP's representative at a meeting for 50 or so residents who had gathered at a church to vent.

We are all angry and frustrated, he said. Feel free tonight to let me see that anger. Direct at me, direct it at BP, but I want to assure you, the folks in this community, that we are working hard to remedy the situation.

Residents weren't buying it.

Sorry doesn't pay the bills, said Susan Felio Price, a longtime resident.

Through the negligence of BP we now find ourselves trying to roller-skate up a mountain, she said. We're growing really weary. We're tired. We're sick and tired of being sick and tired. Someone's got to help us get to the top of that mountain.

President Barack Obama might also hear some of that anger. He returned to the Louisiana coast Friday to assess the latest efforts, his third trip to the region since the disaster unfolded and his second in a week.

Mr. Obama said progress apparently is being made in fighting the enormous Gulf oil spill. But the president said it's way too early to be optimistic about BP's latest attempt to stanch the spill by capping the well and siphoning off some of the crude oil.

Earlier he told CNN's Larry King that he, too, was frustrated and used his strongest language in assailing BP.

I am furious at this entire situation because this is an example where somebody didn't think through the consequences of their actions, Mr. Obama said. This is imperiling an entire way of life and an entire region for potentially years.

Crews will also use methanol to try to prevent icylike crystals from forming on the inside of the cap. At this depth a mile underwater, the near-freezing temperatures can cause a buildup up of hydrates, which foiled the company's attempt to place a 100-ton, four-story dome over the leak about a month ago.

Meanwhile, newly disclosed internal Coast Guard documents from the day after the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig indicated that U.S. officials were warning of a leak of 336,000 gallons per day of crude from the well in the event of a complete blowout.

The volume turned out to be much closer to that figure than the 42,000 gallons per day that BP first estimated. Weeks later that was revised to 210,000 gallons. Now, an estimated 500,000 to 1 million gallons of crude is believed to be leaking daily.

The Center for Public Integrity, which initially reported the Coast Guard logs, said it obtained them from Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The logs also showed early in the disaster that remote underwater robots were unable to activate the rig's blowout preventer, which was supposed to shut off the flow from the well in the event of such a catastrophic failure.

The damage to the environment was chilling on East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast, where workers found birds coated in thick, black goo. Images shot by an Associated Press photographer show Brown pelicans drenched in thick oil, struggling and flailing in the surf.

The suffering birds sent Governor Bobby Jindal into a rage about BP, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassman.

The talk about, 'Well, we're going to write a check, we're going to mitigate the damage,' Jindal said. How [are] you going to mitigate the damage to that bird?

BP CEO Tony Hayward promised that the company would clean up every drop of oil and restore the shoreline to its original state.

BP will be here for a very long time. We realize this is just the beginning, he said.

Those on Grand Isle seemed less than convinced by BP's assurances.

We want you to feel what we feel, said Leoda Bladsacker, a member of the town's council, as her voice trembled. We're not going to be OK for a long, long time.


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