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Allen: Underwater Robot Collision Halts Oil Capture

BP was forced to remove the containment cap that had been capturing some of the oil gushing from the ruptured well in the Gulf, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Wednesday.

A second vessel, the Q4000, is still siphoning oil and flaring it on the surface. Yesterday, it burned 10,425 barrels of oil, according to BP.

Allen said that workers noticed a “burp in the line” from the pipe carrying oil to surface ships and decided to remove the cap “out of an abundance of caution.” He said that operators believe one of the undersea robots working around the leak may have bumped into and accidentally closed one of the vent holes on the cap.

BP removed the cap at 8:45 a.m., according to the Coast Guard.

We’ve updated our oil flow ticker to reflect the fact that the Enterprise is not collecting any oil right now, but some is still being flared.

Allen said that BP is checking the pipe to make sure that no damaging methyl hydrates have formed (ice-like formations that can occur when gas meets seawater). If there are no methyl hydrates, BP will re-install the cap this afternoon, he said. If there are methyl hydrates, it could take “considerably longer.” We’ll update the ticker again when we have more news.

Additional reporting by Lea Winerman

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