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Oil Disaster Update 

  As south Louisiana approached 200 days since the April 20 explosion at the site of the Deepwater Horizon wellhead, BP's costs for the monumental cleanup effort have reached $40 billion. Nonetheless, BP still saw a profit in its third quarter earnings — the oil giant earned $1.8 billion, a drop from $5.3 billion in 2009. CEO Robert Dudley isn't worried.

  While the company's oil production has slipped from 3.9 million barrels to 3.8 million, opportunities are out there — thanks to President Barack Obama's lifting of the Gulf of Mexico deepwater drilling moratorium. Also, bills are en route to its partners at the Deepwater Horizon site, Anadarko Petroleum and Mitsui Oil Exploration Co., for their share in the cleanup costs.

  And that cleanup, assured on Day 197 by federal on-scene coordinator Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft, still has "a very active response."

  "Even though as we're closing in on the 200th day, we're still very much engaged very much at the local level," he said. "At the beginning of this spill, the entire Gulf of Mexico, from Panama City to Galveston, was an impacted area ... whereas now we're dealing with pockets of heavy oil — only about 30 miles of this 580 miles of shoreline has heavy recoverable oil in it, and the majority of this oil is light [and] in trace amounts."

  In Louisiana, oil has worked its way several feet into the sand columns at Pelican Island, Grand Isle, Fourchon Beach and Grand Terre, and officials are testing to see how far down they'll need to clean. Cleanup crews have deployed 420 "sentinel snares," crab trap-like devices attached to snare boom, to determine where and how much oil is out there. Zukunft said oil hasn't touched those booms since Sept. 20, but parish leaders are "satisfied" with their placement. The Vessels of Opportunity program (Louisiana remains the only state using it, with 280 participants) has been scaled back, and its participants now haul trash bags of oil removed from barrier islands.

  Zukunft said the most recent data sampling found oil in concentrations of 1.5 parts per billion, but that the "data is still preliminary. It still needs to go through extensive analysis to determine concentrations of hydrocarbons." — Alex Woodward


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