Cap Recovering Around 10,000 Barrels of Oil a Day, Officials Say

BY Talea Miller  June 6, 2010 at 12:21 PM EDT

Updated 5:05pm ET

BP increased estimates for the amount of oil being siphoned from a ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico Sunday, reporting on its website that 10,500 barrels of oil were recovered by a containment system on Saturday.

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the official in charge of coordinating the federal response to the crisis, echoed the 10,000 barrels figure in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. Allen said that when operating correctly, the system should be collecting a majority of the oil.

“We’re not going to know how much oil is going to come out until we are able to optimize production and that is what they are doing right now. They are slowly raising production. It was 6,000 the day before, it was 10,000 yesterday,” Allen said.

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BP chief executive Tony Hayward told the BBC Sunday the company believes it is pulling the “majority, probably the vast majority” of the oil to its ship positioned on the surface.

“We have a further containment system to implement in the course of this coming week which will be in place by next weekend so when those two are in place, we would very much hope to be containing the vast majority of the oil,” Hayward said.

The Lower Marine Riser Cap system is the latest attempt to stem the spill, after a series of earlier attempts — including a “top hat” containment dome and a method known as “top kill,” which forced mud into the broken well, — failed.

Government estimates set the leak at between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels each day but the total volume of the spill, which began after an April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, is unknown.

The new estimate for the containment cap represents a per day increase of some 4,000 barrels from the 6,000 officials said were captured in the first 24 hours of the operation.

As of Saturday, vents on the containment dome remained open, to relieve pressure but also visibly releasing more oil. BP’s statement Sunday gave no update on the status of the vents, but said “optimization continues and improvement in oil collection is expected over the next few days.”

The operation is trying to avoid the formation of hydrates, or ice-like crystals, which doomed an attempt at a containment cap last month. The dome has been in place since late Thursday, and the news of the partial containment came as tar balls began washing up on Florida beaches.

Regardless of the progress, Allen said Saturday “the long-term threat of this well will not go away until the relief well has been drilled, pressure has been taken off and the well has been plugged,” which is not expected to occur until August.