Storm slows US oil clean-up effort

Efforts to contain Gulf of Mexico oil spill hampered by Hurricane Alex, officials say.

    The storm has pushed more oil and tar balls on to beaches along the US Gulf coast [GALLO/GETTY] 

    However Allen said the biggest setback caused by the storm was a delay in the planned installation of a third containment vessel over the ruptured undersea wellhead.

    in depth

    Engineers have said the vessel could more than double the quantity of oil collected daily, but Allen said the delay caused by the bad weather meant it would now not be installed until next week at the earliest. 

    "We will need about three days after the weather calms... for that vessel to be able to hook up to the flexible coupling that it would be required to do," Allen said.

    "So we're looking at somewhere around midweek next week to bring the third production vessel on-line."

    Hurricane Alex made landfall on the coast of northeastern Mexico early on Thursday, causing serious flooding in and around the Mexican city of Monterrey and killing at least two people.

    It has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, but forecasters have warned that further powerful storms are expected in the months ahead as the hurricane season picks up, threatening further disruption to the oil clean-up effort.

    'Super skimmer'

    In a separate development on Thursday, coast guard officials said a massive ore and oil carrier converted into a "super skimmer" had arrived in the Gulf of Mexico region.

    The storm has forced the suspension of oil spill clean-up efforts in the Gulf of Mexico [AFP]

    The 335 meter-long ship, dubbed the "A Whale," is being provided by the owner, TMT Shipping of Taiwan, and can collect 500,000 barrels per day of contaminated water, said Chris Coulon, a spokeswoman for the coast guard's joint incident command.

    She said the ship would be assessed by engineers from the government and BP to evaluate its usefulness in the Gulf clean-up, but rough seas and winds caused by Hurricane Alex, were delaying plans to begin tests.

    "They can't do their testing until the weather has died down," Coulon said. "They are in close contact with ship owners to proceed with testing as soon as the weather permits."

    About 500 much smaller skimming vessels were being used in the clean-up effort prior to the suspension of operations caused by the arrival of Hurricane Alex.

    Oil from BP's ruptured well began spewing into the waters off Louisiana after an oil rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers.

    Since then it has gushed millions of barrels of crude into the ocean, killing wildlife, choking large swathes of coastline and threatening to destroy the region's lucrative fishing and tourism industries.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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