A drill ship resumed siphoning off oil gushing from a blown-out well
in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday after a bolt of lightning struck the
vessel and ignited a fire that halted containment efforts, the company
BP PLC spokesman Bill Salvin told The Associated Press that the drill
ship called the Discoverer Enterprise resumed processing oil Tuesday
afternoon, about five hours after the fire caused an emergency
shutdown. Engineers on the ship have been siphoning about 630,000
gallons of oil a day through a cap on top of the well.
He said there was no damage reported to the containment cap, and the
Coast Guard approved BP restarting the system.
"If we believed it was damaged, we would not have restarted the
operation," Salvin said.
Salvin was unsure how long the fire lasted but said it was apparently
small and confined to the top of the ship's derrick.
A crewmember aboard a nearby vessel that specializes in firefighting
told the AP that his ship was called in to put out the fire, but by
the time they arrived, it was already out.
"This is not an uncommon occurrence of this type and in this type of
situation," Salvin said, adding that the Discovery Enterprise has a
number of safeguards in place to deal with the possibility of a fire
and "they all worked as designed."
The fire was another setback for the embattled company in its nearly
two-month struggle to stop the spill.
It happened as President Barack Obama was in Florida as part of a
two-day visit to the stricken Gulf Coast and came a day after the
British oil giant announced that it hoped to trap as much as roughly
2.2 million gallons of oil daily by the end of June as it deploys
additional containment equipment.
Scientists have estimated that anywhere between about 40 million
gallons to more than 100 million gallons of oil have spewed into the
Gulf since a drilling rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers.
Though the latest cap installed the well has been capturing oil, large
quantities are still spilling into the sea.
BP has been beefing up its containment efforts with the hurricane
season in mind, building a sturdier system that can withstand the
volatile weather that is so common in the Gulf in the summer months.
The Coast Guard has taken BP to task for not having enough
redundancies in the system to be able to shift gears in events such as
Tuesday's lightning strike.
The company said it hopes to soon start a second containment system -
a burner on a semi-submersible drilling rig that could incinerate up
to 420,000 gallons of oil a day. BP had hoped to start the system as
early as Tuesday.
The fire occurred in a vent pipe leading from a tank on the Enterprise
where processed oil is stored, BP spokesman Robert Wine said.
Louisiana has been hit with several storms and lightning strikes in
the past day.