By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN
Associated Press Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Engineers had to completely uncap the broken oil well spewing into the Gulf of Mexico Wednesday after an undersea robot bumped into machinery being used to collect the spilled fuel. Hundreds of thousands of gallons more poured into the water as crews scrambled to replace a critical component.
The mishap left nothing to stem the flow of oil at its source. A camera recording the well showed huge clouds of black fluid coming out of the sea floor. It was not clear how long workers would need to replace the cap, which took weeks to install.
Bob Dudley, the managing director of BP who is taking over the spill response, said engineers expected to replace the cap in less than a day.
“It’s a disruption, and the crew again did exactly the right thing because they were concerned about safety,” he said. “It’s a setback, and now we will go back into operation and show how this technology can work.”
Without the cap, the only means of collecting the oil was a ship at the surface that is sucking up oil and burning it.
The problem, yet another in the nine-week effort to stop the gusher, came as thick pools of oil washed up on Pensacola Beach in Florida, and the Obama administration sought to resurrect a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling.
The current worst-case estimate of what’s spewing into the Gulf is about 2.5 million gallons a day. Anywhere from 67 million to 127 million gallons have spilled since the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and blew out the well 5,000 feet underwater. BP PLC was leasing the rig from owner Transocean Ltd.
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