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BP could drill again at the site of Gulf of Mexico oil spill, says boss

BP might drill again in the same area of the Gulf of Mexico from which it spilled millions of gallons of crude oil, wrecking livelihoods.

“There's lots of oil and gas here,” chief operating officer Doug Suttles said at a news briefing in New Orleans. “We're going to have to think about what to do with that.”

The vast oil reservoir beneath the blown well is still believed to hold nearly $4bn (£2.5bn) worth of crude. With the company and its partners facing tens of billions of dollars in liabilities, the incentive to exploit the reservoir could grow.

Retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the US government's point man on the spill, said he had no information on BP's future plans.

“I would assume that's a policy issue related to the management of the lease,” he said. “Frankly, it hasn't been raised to my level at this point. I'm not sure I can comment on it.”

Mr Suttles has spent more than three months managing BP's response efforts on the Gulf but is now returning to his day job in Houston, the company said.

Mike Utsler, a vice president who has been running BP's command post in Houma, Louisiana, since April, will replace him.

The personnel shift comes as BP appears to be gaining the upper hand on plugging the leak, triggered when an oil rig exploded off Louisiana on April 20, killing 11 workers and triggering the massive spill. Engineers this week poured in cement to complete a plug at the top of the well bore as part of a process dubbed a “static kill,” but they needed to wait at least a day for it to harden.

Once it does, crews can finish the last stretch of a relief well intersecting the blown well just above the oil's source, injecting more mud and cement from the bottom to form a final plug.

The relief wells could offer a way for BP or another company to pump oil and sell it.

A federal report this week indicated that only about a quarter of the spilled crude remains in the Gulf and is degrading quickly.

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