By TOM BREEN Associated Press Writer
NEW ORLEANS–BP’s costs for the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill climbed nearly half a billion dollars in the past week, raising the oil giant’s tab to just over $3 billion for work on cleaning and capping the gusher and payouts to individuals, businesses and governments.
London-based BP PLC, the largest oil and gas producer in the Gulf, released its latest tally of response costs Monday. The total of $3.12 billion was up from $2.65 billion a week earlier. The figure does not include a $20 billion fund for Gulf damages BP created last month.
The company is also billing partners Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Japan’s Mitsui for their shares of the cleanup. BP has billed Anadarko, a 25 percent stakeholder in the blown-out well, for more than a quarter of a billion dollars so far. It also has reportedly billed Mitsui, a 10 percent partner, for $111 million.
As BP continued drilling relief wells that are the best hope for plugging the blown-out well, a giant new oil skimming vessel was tested in the Gulf. But lousy weather means it may be longer than first hoped before officials know if it can work full-time sucking crude from the sea.
The Taiwanese skimmer dubbed “A Whale” has been able to show off its maneuverability during a weekend test in a patch of water 25 miles square (40 kilometers square) just north of the site where an April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 workers and started the worst oil spill in Gulf history.
TMT, the shipping firm that owns the vessel, had hoped to test a containment boom system designed to direct greater volumes of oily water into the 12 vents or “jaws” that the ship uses to suck it in, according to spokesman Bob Grantham.
But lingering bad weather in the form of stiff winds and choppy seas has made that impossible, and prevented a flotilla of smaller skimmers from working offshore along the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.
Smaller skimmers, which have been idle off the coasts since a spell of bad weather last week kicked up by Hurricane Alex, were on the water along the Louisiana coast over the weekend. Officials with the U.S. Coast Guard are waiting for the weather to improve before sending them out elsewhere.
On Sunday, huge barges used to collect oil from skimming vessels were parked at the mouth of Mobile Bay, waiting for conditions to subside as waves rose to about 5 feet (1.5 meters) high miles offshore.
The current spate of bad weather is likely to last for days, according to the National Weather Service.
So far, weather has not slowed drilling on two relief wells meant to finally plug the spill. BP officials have said they’re running slightly ahead of schedule on the drilling, but expect weather or other delays.
Early to mid-August is still the timeframe for the completion of the drilling.
Along with the drilling, the capture and burning of oil and gas at the site of the leaking well has gone on without interruption from the weather. But the choppy seas have delayed the operation of another vessel that officials say will roughly double the amount of oil being collected or burned.
The Helix Producer is supposed to connect with the leaking well by a flexible hose that will help it disconnect and reconnect quickly if a hurricane or other major storm forces an evacuation of the site.
Coast Guard officials say they’re hoping to have the Helix Producer connected to the well and collecting oil by Wednesday.
Associated Press Writer Jay Reeves in Dauphin Island, Alabama, contributed to this report.
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