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BP sends deep-sea sensors to measure spill

BP mounted a more aggressive response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as it deployed undersea sensors to better measure the ferocious flow of crude while drawing up new plans to meet a US government demand that it speed up the containment effort.

The financial ramifications of the disaster which began on April 20 are growing by the day as the White House and states put pressure on the oil giant to set aside billions for spill-related claims in a move that could quickly drain the company’s cash reserves and hasten its path towards possible bankruptcy.

BP was also trying to meet a deadline to respond to a letter from the US Coast Guard demanding that it intensify the efforts to stop the spill. One of the actions BP took yesterday was to use robotic submarines to position sensors inside the well to gauge how much oil was spilling.

Scientists have not been able to pin down just how much oil is leaking into the Gulf, although the high-end estimates indicated the spill could exceed 455M litres. The government has stressed that the larger estimates were still preliminary and considered a worse-case scenario.

The Obama administration’s point man on the oil spill, Admiral Thad Allen, said government officials thought the best figures wee from a middle-of-the-road estimate, which would put the spill at around 300M litres of oil. That is about six times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill.

BP is currently capturing about 2.9M litres of oil a day, but hundreds thousands more are still escaping into the Gulf.

The company has said that it could begin siphoning an additional 1.8M litres a day from tomorrow by burning it using a specialised boom being installed on a rig − and any new success would be welcome news for US president Barack Obama as he returns to the Gulf.

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