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Oil hitting Alabama beaches worst yet since spill

 A shore bird walks along the sand at the Perdido Pass in Orange Beach, Ala., at sunset Friday, June 11, 2010. Authorities closed the pass to boat tra...
 The sun sets over the Perdido Pass in Orange Beach, Ala., Friday, June 11, 2010.  Authorities closed the pass to boat traffic Friday afternoon during...
 Recuperating in an outdoor pen until they�re ready for release, pelicans swim while others perch on the rim of their pool on Friday, June 11, 2010 . ...
 Bart Seigel holds the beak of an oiled brown pelican rescued from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill during cleaning efforts at the bird rescue center next...
 This deflection boom has collected massive amounts of oil as it sits just off the beach in Orange Beach, Ala., Saturday, June 12, 2010.  Orange Beach...
 This deflection boom has collected massive amounts of oil as it sits just off the beach in Orange Beach, Ala., Saturday, June 12, 2010.  Orange Beach...
 A light sheen of oil embraces the coast along Orange Beach, Ala., Saturday, June 12, 2010. Orange Beach saw it's heaviest concentration of oil striki...
 A boat patrols Perdido Bay as the sun rises in Orange Beach, Ala., Saturday, June 12, 2010.  Authorities closed the Perdido Pass to boat traffic amid...
 A large heavy sheen of oil floats just off the beach in Orange Beach, Ala., Saturday, June 12, 2010.  On Friday the sheen was several miles off the c...
 A light sheen of oil is seen in the waters of the Perdido Pass in Orange Beach, Ala., Saturday, June 12, 2010.  Authorities closed the Perdido Pass t...

APTOPIX Gulf Oil Spill

A shore bird walks along the sand at the Perdido Pass in Orange Beach, Ala., at sunset Friday, June 11, 2010. Authorities closed the pass to boat tra...

Gulf Oil Spill

The sun sets over the Perdido Pass in Orange Beach, Ala., Friday, June 11, 2010. Authorities closed the pass to boat traffic Friday afternoon during...

Gulf Oil Spill

Recuperating in an outdoor pen until they�re ready for release, pelicans swim while others perch on the rim of their pool on Friday, June 11, 2010 . ...

Gulf Oil Spill

Bart Seigel holds the beak of an oiled brown pelican rescued from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill during cleaning efforts at the bird rescue center next...

Gulf Oil Spill

This deflection boom has collected massive amounts of oil as it sits just off the beach in Orange Beach, Ala., Saturday, June 12, 2010. Orange Beach...

Gulf Oil Spill

This deflection boom has collected massive amounts of oil as it sits just off the beach in Orange Beach, Ala., Saturday, June 12, 2010. Orange Beach...

Gulf Oil Spill

A light sheen of oil embraces the coast along Orange Beach, Ala., Saturday, June 12, 2010. Orange Beach saw it's heaviest concentration of oil striki...

APTOPIX Gulf Oil Spill

A boat patrols Perdido Bay as the sun rises in Orange Beach, Ala., Saturday, June 12, 2010. Authorities closed the Perdido Pass to boat traffic amid...

Gulf Oil Spill

A large heavy sheen of oil floats just off the beach in Orange Beach, Ala., Saturday, June 12, 2010. On Friday the sheen was several miles off the c...

Gulf Oil Spill

A light sheen of oil is seen in the waters of the Perdido Pass in Orange Beach, Ala., Saturday, June 12, 2010. Authorities closed the Perdido Pass t...

Alabama's beaches took their worst hit yet from an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday as globs of crude and gooey tar _ some the size of pancakes _ lined the white sands and crews worked to try to keep a giant oil sheen just a few miles (kilometers) away from reaching the shore.
Scientists have estimated that anywhere between about 40 million gallons (151 million liters) to 109 million gallons (413 million liters) of oil have gushed into the Gulf since a drilling rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers and triggering the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
The oil washing up on Alabama's shores was the heaviest since the rig explosion and came just as the summer beach season was picking up.
During a flight over the Gulf, Sean Brumley, an aerial spotter, said he saw an oily sheen and brown patches of oil floating for miles (kilometers) off the Alabama coast. Boats trying to remove the oil before it hit the coast worked about three miles (five kilometers) out.
"The Gulf looks like it has chicken pox," Brumley said.
The oily sheen covered the pass leading into Perdido Bay near the Alabama-Florida state lines. Globs of brown oil floated in the still water at a marina despite miles (kilometers) of boom that were meant to prevent oil from reaching inshore waters.
Tony Tingle, of Trussville, said it was even worse the evening before.
"It was actually crude oil, not tar balls. All the cleaning crews flooded in. The skimming boats came in pretty quickly, helicopters were circling, and a bunch of boats came in. It smelled like a machine shop," Tingle said.
The beaches in Florida's Panhandle were largely free of tar early Saturday _ but signs of the fight against the spill were everywhere. Officials have said that two wide sections of the slick were just off the shoreline.
The slow movement of the oil and constant preparations for its arrival were taking a toll on beach residents.
"It's like waiting for someone to die from cancer," said Greg Hall, who walks the beach each morning.
Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the Obama administration's point man for the oil spill, said that since the leak began, 4 million gallons (15 million liters) of crude have been siphoned off the ruptured well using tubes and caps. An additional 18 million gallons (68 million liters) have been skimmed from the ocean surface, he said. The skimmed liquid is generally only 10 to 15 percent oil.
BP has said it plans to boost its ability to directly capture oil gushing from the well by early next week. A semi-submersible drilling rig would capture and burn up to 420,000 gallons (1.59 million liters) of oil daily. Once on board, the oil and gas collected from the well will be sent down a boom and burned at sea.
A drill ship already at the scene can process a maximum of 756,000 gallons (2.86 million liters) of oil daily that's sucked up through a containment cap sitting on the well head. The crude collected by the drill ship is to be sold.
Federal officials are still reviewing BP's plan to build a new containment system designed to capture more oil and be more durable during hurricane season. Allen said the plan could be revised based on calculations of how much oil is spilling from the well.
BP announced earlier this month it will donate its share of the proceeds generated by selling some of the oil captured from the well to fund efforts to protect and restore wildlife habitat along the Gulf Coast.
The company has not released specifics on how the fund will work and said it doesn't know how much money might be raised. But once the oil is brought to shore, it will creep into the world's economic supply chain unnoticed by consumers.
The oil could end up in a wide array of fuels and products including gasoline, diesel, heating oil, asphalt and plastic _ including the bags used at grocery stores, the cases for cell phones and microwaves.
"Oil is oil," said Julius Langlinais, professor emeritus of petroleum engineering at Louisiana State University. "There's no stamp or anything on it. It's all the same molecules."
Negotiations were still ongoing Friday to find a buyer for all that captured oil, BP spokesman Mark Proegler said.
It's unclear how much the captured oil will be worth once it's sold. Oil was trading around $74 a barrel Friday, but BP officials said they expect to get a lower price than normal because the oil captured from the leak is laced with methanol. BP is injecting methanol as an antifreeze into the inside of the containment cap sitting over the gushing well to prevent the buildup of an ice-like slush that can clog the pipes.
____
Reeves reported from Orange Beach, Alabama; Henry from New Orleans. Associated Press Writer Melissa Nelson in Pensacola Beach, Florida, contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-10-20 12:01 GMT+08:00