WRAPUP 1-BP spill work on hold as storm enters Gulf

* BP suspends relief well activity due to weather

* BP shares close up 1.7 percent in New York trading

* Storm weakens but could pick up steam again

By Kristen Hays

HOUSTON, July 24 (BestGrowthStock) – The approach of a major storm
on Saturday forced BP Plc (BP.L: ) (BP.N: ) to halt efforts to
permanently plug its gushing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico and
the system could regain strength after it weakened on Friday.

Two rigs stopped drilling the relief wells intended to halt
the leak for good and prepared on Friday to move out of the
storm’s path.

Tropical Storm Bonnie weakened to a tropical depression
after moving across Florida on Friday, but could strengthen
over Gulf waters and was on track to bring heavy seas and rain
to the spill area by Saturday afternoon, adding to the sense of
urgency.

“Bonnie could regain tropical storm strength as it moves
across the Gulf of Mexico,” the Miami-based U.S. National
Hurricane Center said.

There were no reports of significant damage or storm surge,
however, and forecasters said there was also virtually no
chance that Bonnie could become a hurricane before its make
landfall again, anywhere between the Louisiana coast and
Florida’s northwest Panhandle late on Saturday.

Ships collecting seismic and acoustic data on the capped
well and those operating underwater robots that provide a live
feed of the wellhead would be the last to leave, and could stay
if seas do not become too rough, officials said.
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“If we have to evacuate the scene we’re probably looking at
a very limited window — probably 48 hours,” said retired Coast
Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the top U.S. spill official.

BP sealed the leak last week with a tight-fitting
containment cap, choking off the flow of oil for the first time
since an April 20 rig explosion killed 11 workers and sent
crude spewing into the Gulf, soiling coastlines in five states
and devastating tourism and fishery industries.

The evacuation may push back BP’s mid-August target date
for completing a relief well that would permanently plug the
leak to late August. But the ruptured well will remain capped,
easing fears the flow would resume.

The evacuation also delayed another potential solution, the
launch of a “static kill” operation to pump heavy drilling mud
and possibly cement into the well.

BP’s spill, the worst in U.S. history, is believed to have
spewed more than five million barrels of oil into the Gulf.

Stock Market Investing

(Additional reporting by Tom Brown in Miami; Writing Ed
Stoddard; editing by Todd Eastham)

WRAPUP 1-BP spill work on hold as storm enters Gulf