Rig owner sets aside 200 million dollars for US oil disaster

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    The owner of the rig at the center of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster said Thursday it had set aside 200 million dollars to pay for what now threatens to become an environmental catastrophe.

    Transocean, the world’s largest offshore drilling contractor, said it still did not know why the Deepwater Horizon exploded, killing 11 people, and said it was “inappropriate” to speculate on the causes of the April 20 disaster.

    Two days after the blast, the semi-submersible platform sank 50 miles (80 kilometres) off the ecologically fragile Louisiana coast and started spewing out an estimated 5,000 barrels, or 210,000 gallons, of crude each day from leaks in the riser pipe that had connected it to the wellhead. “We will be dealing with the emotional consequences for some time,” Steven Newman, the CEO of the Swiss-incorporated firm, which has its main headquarters in Houston, Texas, told investors.

    Transocean, which leased the rig to the British energy giant BP, said it had received 581 million dollars in insurance payments and was covered for around one billion dollars, including personal injury claims. Newman said its contract made clear that BP would be responsible for any liability. “We expect that BP will honor that contract,” he said.

    The company reported profits of 677 million dollars in the first three months of this year, but said the costs of the disaster would be felt in the next quarter. Frantic efforts are under way to clear up the giant slick created by the spill before it makes landfall and to permanently seal leaks in the riser pipe, which now lies fractured 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) down on the seabed.

    Gulf of Mexico coastal communities from Texas to Florida are anxiously waiting to see if attempts by BP to contain the leaks with a massive dome are successful, otherwise the oil could be leaking for months.

    Washington, May 6, 2010 (AFP)