US & Canada

Obama urges tourism to aid Gulf economy post-spill

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Media captionBarack Obama says the Gulf environment will be restored "no matter how long it takes"

President Obama has urged Americans to "come on down and visit" Florida to help revive the economy stricken by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Mr Obama said oil was no longer flowing into the Gulf but "our job is not finished and we are not going anywhere until it is."

The president is visiting Florida with his wife and elder daughter.

On Friday, US incident commander Adm Thad Allen said work would continue to seal the leaking well for good.

The president paid tribute to the US Coast Guard and others who had "toiled day and night" to plug the leak.

'Clean, open, safe'

He urged Americans to take their holidays in Florida, saying: "As a result of the clean-up effort, the beaches are clean, open and safe."

Tourism is one of the mainstays of the Florida economy. This year, however, much of the coastline is deserted, says the BBC's Andy Gallacher in Miami.

The dramatic drop in tourists is down to a perception that all the beaches along the Florida panhandle, as it is known, are coated in oil, our correspondent says, even though that is not the case.

Mr Obama said he would maintain the pressure on BP to pay out compensation claims from the $20bn (£12.8bn) fund set up for that purpose.

Image caption The Obamas are taking a brief holiday in the Florida panhandle

Any delay was "unacceptable", he said, especially for those who had lost their sole source of income as a result of the spill.

Meanwhile, BP will get the go-ahead to finish sealing the blown-out well, Adm Allen has said.

However, he wants further tests completed before drilling on the relief well resumes.

BP has said its "static kill" procedure, in which mud and cement were pumped into the top of the well, has worked.

But Adm Allen said it was not clear whether that plug that had formed was enough to block the damaged well permanently, and he wants work on the relief well to continue.

Drilling has been suspended because of bad weather in the Gulf of Mexico.

Once all the tests have been completed, it will take 96 hours (four days) before drilling can resume.

That means the relief well will not be completed before next weekend at the earliest.

20 April: A surge in oil and gas causes an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig. The blowout preventer system of valves (BOP) at the well head on the seabed is believed to have failed.

22 April: The oil rig sinks and the riser pipe that connected it to the well falls to the seabed. Oil and gas continue to flow from the pipe and blowout preventer, causing a five mile (8km) oil slick.

The blowout preventer is meant to be the ultimate fail safe against pressure surges. Its valves should have closed, shutting off the oil and gas from the reservoir and sealing the well.

The initial failure of the blowout preventer, and subsequent efforts to remotely shut it down, result in a constant leak of oil and gas from holes in the bent riser pipe on the seabed and above the BOP.

As oil continues to flow into the sea, initial efforts are made on the surface to contain the leak using booms and dispersants. The response grows daily and soon hundreds of vessels are involved, including skimmers, tugs and recovery ships as well as dozens of aircraft and multiple mobile offshore drilling units.

2 May: BP starts drilling the first of two relief wells. The aim is to connect with the original well and then pump in heavy liquid to stem the flow of oil. Drilling for the second starts on 16 May. Both are expected to take two to three months to complete.

5 May: BP successfully stops the flow of oil from the end of the drilling pipe - one of three leak points. Around the same time, a huge containment dome is lowered over the main leak but this fails on 8 May as the dome is blocked by frozen hydrate crystals caused by leaking gas.

16 May: A tube is inserted into the leaking pipe to funnel off leaking oil and gas to a ship on the surface.

26 May: BP starts its "top kill" procedure in an attempt to plug the well by pumping mud into the blowout preventer from a vessel on the surface.

A manifold system of pipes and valves is connected to the BOP and a drill pipe from the vessel.

Pipes from the manifold are attached to the "choke and kill" bypass systems inside the blowout preventer. This gives access to the BOP system's main valves.

Heavy mud with a large proportion of clay is pumped into the BOP under high pressure. The aim is to force enough mud into the well to stop it flowing.

A "junk shot" mixture of materials such as rubber, golf balls and rope is injected in an effort to help block the flow.

29 May: BP announces that the top kill system has failed and the oil spill continues.

2 June: BP starts the next procedure - to lower a cap over the blowout preventer to capture the leaking oil and funnel it to a surface vessel.

The riser pipe is cut and removed and the cap is lowered onto the top section of the blowout preventer, known as the lower marine riser package or LMRP. The cap is not a tight fit and oil is still leaking around it, but it does collect about 15,000 barrels of oil a day.

16 June: Engineers open a second route to the surface by connecting the lines used in the top kill procedure to a floating rig called Q4000. This collects about 10,000 barrels a day.

10 July: The LMRP cap is removed to be replaced with a tightly fitting capping stack, designed to seal the well.

15 July: With the sealing cap fitted, all three rams - or valves - inside are turned off and the flow of oil is stopped for the first time since 20 April. In the following days, tests are conducted to check whether pressure will cause oil to leak from elsewhere in the BOP or well. The tests are successful.

Work begins on the next process: a "static kill" which involves pumping drilling mud through the blowout preventer into the well and reservoir.

5 August: Engineers follow up the mud with cement, blocking the well. US Government scientists announce the total estimated amount of oil spilt into the Gulf of Mexico is 4.9 million barrels. Work continues on the relief wells.

The plan is to use at least one relief well to pump more mud and cement into the main well to totally seal or "kill" it. The well can then be abandoned although BP says it will continue clean-up work in the area for "as long as it takes".

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