US Gulf oil spill spreads west toward Texas

ROBERT, La (Reuters) – BP Plc engineers desperately  explored options on yesterday to control oil gushing from a  ruptured well deep under the Gulf of Mexico after a setback  with a huge undersea containment dome fuelled fears of a  prolonged and growing environmental disaster.

The spill is spreading west, further from Florida but  toward the important shipping channels and rich seafood areas  of the Louisiana shoreline, where fishing, shrimping and oyster  harvesting bans have been widened.

A state of emergency was declared in Lafourche Parish,  Louisiana, with sheen, the leading edge of the oil slick,  forecast to come ashore near Port Fourchon within days.

BP is exploring several new options to control the spill  after a buildup of crystallized gas in the dome forced  engineers to delay efforts to place a massive four-story  containment chamber over the rupture on Saturday.

“We’re gathering some data to help us with two things. One  is another way to do containment, the second is other ways to  actually stop the flow,” BP chief operating officer Doug  Suttles told Reuters in Venice, Louisiana.

BP was also exploring ways to overcome the containment  dome’s problem with gas hydrates — slushy methane gas that  would block the oil from being siphoned up to a waiting ship.

“People are working around the clock at BP headquarters,”  US Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen told National Public Radio.  But conducting operations at depths of one mile (1.6 km) below  the surface was complicating the challenge.

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