25 May 2010

Oil leak research funds pledged by BP

11:53 am on 25 May 2010

BP has pledged up to $US500 million to fund 10 years of research into the long-term effect of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on the shoreline and marine environment.

The company is under heavy political criticism in the United States over its handling of attempts to stem the flow of oil from a damaged well on the seabed.

BP said the research would try to assess the impact of ocean currents, how the oil affects sea life and whether chemicals used to disperse the leak, damage the environment.

The programme will start with a grant to Louisiana State University. The amount was not disclosed.

The leak began after a deep-water drilling rig exploded on 20 April, killing 11 people. It sank two days later.

The company is now preparing to try and plug the leak by firing heavy mud and cement down into the well, which is 1.5km below sea level. It rates the probability of success as between 60% - 70%.

BP has lost about 25% of its market value - almost $US50 billion - since the leak began.

New permits issued

The New York Times reported on Monday that US government regulators who oversee offshore oil drilling have granted at least 19 environmental waivers for gulf drilling projects and 17 drilling permits since the oil leak began.

The BBC reports the new permits and waivers appear to contradict President Barack Obama's declaration of a moratorium on new offshore drilling, issued soon after the rig explosion.