Oil spill response tops $3 billion

Oil company BP said Monday the cost of the
response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill so far is US$3.12 billion, as it ramps
up oil-containment efforts following storm surges caused by Hurricane Alex.

The cost figure includes containment,
relief-well drilling, grants to Gulf states, claims paid and federal costs, BP
said in a statement.

Work continues to collect and disperse the
oil. On July 3, a total of 25,198 barrels of oil were collected or flared by
the lower marine riser package containment cap and a second system that takes
oil and gas to the Q4000 vessel on the surface.

The company is preparing to boost the
capacity to capture oil with a third containment system, which it expects to be
operational toward the end of the week, slightly delayed by last week’s
hurricane, BP said.

“Plans are also being developed for
additional containment capacity and flexibility,” BP’s statement said.
“These projects are currently anticipated to begin operations around mid
to late July.”

BP has made more than 47,000 payments,
totaling almost $147 million, out of a total of almost 95,000 claims to date,
BP said.

The spill, which is in its 76th day and now
ranks among the largest in U.S. history, began after an April 20 blast aboard
Transocean Ltd.’s (RIG) Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which BP had leased for
its Macondo well.

The spill has hurt the region’s fishing and
tourism industries. It has wiped billions from BP’s market value and catalyzed
opposition to offshore drilling for hydrocarbons.

Scientists estimate that oil is flowing
from the damaged well at a rate of 35,000-60,000 barrels a day. It’s likely
that more than 2 million barrels of oil has spilled into the Gulf so far,
damaging the region’s fragile ecosystem and marring hundreds of miles of

Oil-containment and clean-up efforts were
disrupted last week by a storm surge in the wake of Hurricane Alex, which made
landfall west of the oil spill. Heavy winds and waves blew sand across beaches,
burying oil and a barrier known as boom.