Oil spill hits Mississippi shore

Written by Reuters | Updated: Jun 30 2010, 04:06am hrs
Thick oil from BP Plcs Gulf of Mexico spill washed ashore in Mississippi for the first time as tropical storm Alex moved into the Gulf, posing a threat to the cleanup operation.

Alex, the first named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, had sustained winds of 45 mph and was about 60 miles west-southwest of Campeche, Mexico. The system was moving west-northwest at 7 mph. Forecasters from the US National Hurricane Center say Alex could become a hurricane in the next 48 hours.

They predict Alex will make landfall as a hurricane on Wednesday between Brownsville, Texas, and Tuxpan de Rodriguez Cano in Mexico, sparing BPs oil collection efforts at its ruptured deep-sea well. After another rocky week last week, investors will have their eyes on shares of BP, which have been savaged since the oil spill started on April 20. The shares, which fell to a 14-year low on Friday, were up 3.9% at 4:34 am on Monday. The oil spill, which began on April 20, has caused an economic and environmental disaster along the US Gulf Coast, threatening fisheries, tourism and wildlife.

BP said it had spent $300 million on its Gulf of Mexico oil spill response effort in the past three days, hitting the $100 million/day spend rate for the first time and bringing its total bill to $2.65 billion so far. The figures, which BP released in a statement on Monday, include the cost of trying to cap the well, clean up the environmental damage caused by the leaking crude and pay compensation to those affected by the spill.

BP added it remained on track to complete its relief well, which aims to kill the leaking well at the point it meets the reservoir, in the three month timeframe initially envisaged, despite progress slowing on the well in recent days. BP has set up a $20 billion compensation fund under US pressure. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who heads the worlds biggest energy producer, made a proposal for a global pollution fund, into which oil companies would be forced to pay, at the Group of 20 summit in Toronto on Sunday. He said G-20 leaders had asked experts to work on the idea.

Louisianas fragile wetlands have been hardest hit by the oil but Mississippi had escaped damage until Sunday, although some oil had tainted its barrier islands. Oil has also come ashore in Alabama and Floridas Gulf coast.

Gluey gobs of brown oil and a rainbow oil sheen sloshed onto tourist beaches at Ocean Springs, Mississippi, about 10 miles east of Biloxi, and at a beach used by fisherman that is close to an inland marsh. Mississippi state officials and the US Coast Guard, who said they expect more oil to arrive, were waiting on BP contractors to start cleaning up. Life as I know it is over. What are we going to do if nobody cares to act fast enough asked Mike Hollings, a local resident who cried as he stared at the oil on the beach. BP said on Monday a relief well it is drilling to kill the leaking Macondo well was closing in on its target.After progressing at a speed of 1,000 feet a day last week, the relief well proceeded over the weekend at less than 100 feet/day as delicate tests were conducted to try and locate its quarry.

British newspaper the Sunday Times reported, citing industry sources, that BP was on track to plug Macondo in a fortnight, or by July 11, but BP said it still expected completion three weeks later at around August 2.