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  • Sun, May 30, 2010 - 09:24pm

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    Re: Gulf Oil Spill Reaches Land

US oil nightmare could drag on to August

By North America correspondent Lisa Millar

Updated 1 hour 5 minutes ago

A senior White House adviser says the blown-out wellhead at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico could continue to spew oil into the ocean until August.

Carol Browner, the president’s adviser on energy and climate, says the oil spill is the country’s biggest environmental disaster.

BP’s latest attempt to stem the leak, the so-called “top kill”, failed over the weekend and the company is now working on another approach involving underwater robots and containment domes.

But Ms Browner says there are growing fears nothing will work in the short-term.

“There could be oil coming up until August when the relief wells are dug,” she said.

“This is probably the biggest environmental disaster we have ever faced in this country. It is certainly the biggest oil spill and we are responding with the biggest environmental response.

“It means more oil is leaking into the Gulf of Mexico than at any other time in our history. It means there is more oil than the Exxon Valdez.”

At least 20 million gallons of oil are now estimated to have leaked into the ocean since the rig exploded on April 20.

BP had tried forcing in a mixture of mud and cement, known as a “top kill”, but it did not seal the well.

Executive Bob Dudley says the energy giant is going back to a previous plan – the containment dome – hoping they fixed what went wrong with that the first time.

“The engineering on this is more simple than the top kill. What we need to do is go down with the robots, diamond cut saws, [and] slice off the top of that riser with a clean surface,” he said.

“The flow rate shouldn’t be that much higher. And then [we can] drop this containment over it. It will be a four to seven-day operation.

“I think the probability of it working is much different than the top kill.”

BP is facing even more criticism with new allegations that internal company files showed BP had serious concerns about the Deepwater rig weeks before the accident.