British energy giant BP siphoned 25,000 barrels of oil from its blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, the highest amount yet collected by the company, a top US official has said.
Thad Allen, the coast guard admiral heading the US government's response to the spill, however, said on Friday that 60,000 barrels could be leaking from the well per day.
The higher than expected figures on the effectiveness of siphoning came on the heels of reports that BP is seeking $7bn in loans from banks as it faces cash flow problems related to the clean-up effort, compensation payments and a battered share price.
Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP, will hand over day-to-day handling of the spill, to the company's managing director, BP's chairman told Sky News on Friday.
Hayward faced six hours of hearings in Washington on Thursday, as US legislators grilled him on the company's response to the disaster.
Henry Waxman, a Democratic representative, told Hayward that BP had shown "astonishing complacency" regarding safety warnings over the drilling platform which exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and unleashing the worst oil spill in US history.
Since then millions of litres of crude from the ruptured well have gushed into the ocean every day, with thick black oil choking large swathes of vulnerable coastline, threatening multi-billion dollar fishing and tourism industries and killing birds and marine life.
Meanwhile, a BP executive said on Friday that the first of two relief wells being drilled to plug the leak has reached within 200 meters of the blown-out well.
Kent Wells, BP's senior vice-president of exploration and production, said the next step will be to slowly hone in on the ruptured well and eventually to plug it.
The relief wells should provide a more permanent solution to the spill, as oil continues to gush despite current siphoning efforts.
Relief cannot come soon enough for thousands of workers and small business owners who have been hurt by the spill.
Compensation from a $20bn fund set up by BP under pressure from the US government will begin "prompt payment" of claims, the fund's administrator said on Friday.
Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of the independent fund, has promised a "transparent methodology" for evaluating compensation claims.