Washington, May 31 (DPA) The US government is preparing for a months-long disaster in the Gulf of Mexico after the latest attempt by oil giant BP to plug a gushing well were declared a failure.
"What we're doing is we're going to hope for the best and prepare for the worst," Carol Browner, an Obama energy advisor, told the CBS television programme Face the Nation Sunday. "The worst is that we have oil leaking until August, until these relief wells are done. And we will be prepared for the worst".
Efforts by BP to plug the oil well with a so-called top-kill operation were declared a failure Saturday and the oil company said it would try another approach - again trying to capture the oil and siphon it to the surface.
In a new strategy, BP will first use robots to cut off the leaking riser pipe that leads out of the damaged well head to create an even surface before lowering a dome to capture the oil.
BP managing director Bob Dudley said there was "more probability of success with this than the top-kill", while noting the risks and challenges of operating deep below sea level remain.
BP had received previous warnings that the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico had serious safety problems, the New York Times reported Sunday, citing internal BP documents.
Those problems included difficulties with the blowout preventer and well casing -elements believed to be to blame for the disaster that saw the rig explode and sink April 20 in the Gulf of Mexico, starting a catastrophic oil spill.
The paper said there were reports of these problems as early as last June.
One BP engineer cited in the documents called a blowout a "worst-case scenario," but added an additional warning: "I have seen it happen so know it can occur".
The explosion killed 11 people and unleashed the worst marine spill in US history, which has led BP's share price to slide on fears of a multi-billion dollar cleanup bill and President Barack Obama's authority to come into question over his government's response to the crisis.
Local government and industry officials on the Gulf Coast have grown increasingly alarmed as they watch oil slather more than 160 km of the Louisiana coastline and invade 12 hectares of fragile marshlands.