May 17, 2010 8:18 AM by Bea Karnes, News First 5

Gulf tube siphoning 20 percent of leaked oil

Reporting its first success in containing the massive Gulf oil leak nearly a month after it started, BP on Sunday said oil and natural gas were flowing via a mile-long pipe to a ship at the surface.

Yet even as the company reported the success, scientists warned oil that has already spewed into the Gulf could have dire consequences for the environment. Computer models show the black ooze might have already entered a major current flowing toward the Florida Keys, a researcher said Sunday.

The contraption used by BP was hooked up successfully and sucking oil from a pipe at the blown well Sunday afternoon after being hindered by several setbacks. Engineers remotely guiding robot submersibles had worked since Friday to place the four-inch tube into a 21-inch pipe nearly a mile below the sea.

"So far it's working extremely well," BP Senior Executive Vice President Kent Wells said of the strategy.

Still, Wells offered a tempered response to the news. "It's a positive move, but let's keep it in context," he added. "We're about shutting down the flow of oil from this well."

"We're very slowly increasing the rate" to get more oil and natural gas up, he told reporters. "We will just learn as we go with this approach." Siphoning oil from a mile down had never before been successful.

It's not clear how much of the overall leak is being captured, Wells said, but that should be known in the next day or two.

Crews will slowly ramp up how much oil the tube collects over the next couple of days. They need to move slowly because they don't want too much frigid seawater entering the pipe, which could combine with gases to form icelike crystals that would clog it.




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