OIL SPILL -- July 1, 2010 at 5:22 PM ET
Dudley: BP, Government Researching Options in Case Relief Wells Don't Work
Updated 5:44 p.m. | In an exclusive live online interview with the NewsHour's Ray Suarez, BP's chief of Gulf Coast restoration Bob Dudley said the company and the U.S. government are exploring "at least two options to divert the flow" of oil in the event that relief wells being drilled become the latest failures to kill the blown-out Gulf well. The interview is part of a collaboration with Google and YouTube.
Calling the well polluting the Gulf of Mexico "just a very unusual problem," Dudley said the company's first relief well is now being drilled down vertically parallel to the blown-out well and must go another 600 feet before casing is added and another kill attempt is made.
Dudley, a Mississippi native, said the success of the two relief wells being drilled is not guaranteed.
"If those don't work, we're working with the government on another series of options to direct and divert flow from well," he said. But Dudley declined to release any details on those plans.
Dudley also said it won't be possible to estimate the total cost of the oil leak until the well is killed.
"It's hard to talk about a limit to claims, certainly (as) we continue to have this spill," he said.
BP remains a very strong company in terms of its cash flow and it's important for the company to remain strong and viable to meet its future obligations in the Gulf, he said.
Regarding the cleanup efforts that have been delayed by choppy waters kicked up by Hurricane Alex, Dudley said that crews will be ready to go back in the water Saturday when the waves die down.
The oil cleanup effort will go from using 500 skimmers to more than 900. Dudley said crews have sometimes been frustrated by the movement of oil from the time that it's spotted to the time that crews get to an area. The company plans to bring in blimps to help with aerial spotting efforts.
Asked why BP must burn some of the oil that's being siphoned from the gushing well, Dudley said it simply a matter of space limitation of them "not being able to put a larger vessel there in a city of activity."
The Gulf oil leak is a "tragic but not well-understood accident" that will change the oil and gas industry, he said. Eventually, the failed blowout preventer from the Deepwater Horizon rig will be taken off the ocean floor for examination, he said.
Dudley said he hopes that someday people will come to believe his assertion that this clean-up effort has been an "unprecedented corporate response," adding that he's not sure what would have happened in a disaster involving a company with fewer resources.
"We are dealing with this as best we know how. We're not making it up as we go along."
To date, BP has received more than 110,000 suggestions regarding how to stop the well and how to clean up the oil that's been gushing into the Gulf for more than two months. Teams are reviewing them, but "less than 1,000" have been examined more closely, he said. Those have mostly involved cleanup and spill response rather than subsea engineering.
"No one's interested to see a company like BP not be strong enough to meet its commitments," adding that the company still aspires to attract investors and "come out of this a half decade from now a stronger company."
Regarding the use of Corexit oil dispersants, Dudley said they have been approved by the EPA and been used in the Gulf for a long time but he acknowledged that they've never been used in the quantities they have been with this effort. As for their toxicity, he said "many things have a toxicity level, including dish soap," adding that Corexit's toxicity is "not far off" from that.
Asked whether there were fissures in the seafloor that could be leaking out some oil, Dudley said that notion persists and that the company has dispatched submarines to explore the nearby area. Calling them "pretty unusual reports," Dudley said there's no evidence about a fractured seabed.
Regarding the video feeds coming from as many as 14 underwater robots, Dudley said: "We realize it's confusing." The company is exploring whether to add captions about what viewers are seeing or even having engineers narrate.