Investors Keep Punishing BP as the Oil Spill Threatens the Gulf

Gulf oil spill BP cleanup effort
Gulf oil spill BP cleanup effort

Shares of oil giant British Petroleum (BP) continued to fall on Monday as the company mounts an aggressive response to last week's oil rig fire and races against time to avert an environmental disaster. The company sent 32 spill-response vessels equipped with 100,000 gallons of chemical dispersant to a 20 mile by 20 mile oil slick about 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana. More than 33,700 gallons of oily-water mixture was recovered from the surface of the Gulf of Mexico by Saturday.

BP has also begun efforts to cap the two sources of 1,000 barrels of oil a day that continue to leak out of the damaged Macondo/MC252 exploration well more than 5,000 feet below the Gulf's surface. The Coast Guard and a number of other organizations and agencies are currently working around the clock to deploy another drilling rig, the Development Driller III, which will be used to drill another well to connect with the original Macondo well. The plan would be to then use special heavy fluids to stop the flow of oil and gas, allowing workers to seal it permanently.

"We are attacking this spill on two fronts -- at the wellhead and on the surface offshore," said BP Group Chief Executive Tony Hayward in a statement. "The team on the ground and those at sea have the Group's full resources behind them."

Shares of BP fell $1.57, or 2.56%, to $58.34 in early afternoon trading on Monday. Analysts suggest the stock could continue to slide if news about the spill worsens.

An Ever-Larger Effort

The number of resources used to contain the oil spill is mounting. In addition to the 32 vessels, five aircraft to help spread the chemical dispersant are also in use. Almost 500 personnel, on- and offshore, have already been deployed for the operation.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a BP spokesman, "We've already spent millions." And the company is likely to spend far more because it could take up to a month to seal the well completely

A massive effort is being waged to keep the oil from reaching shore and creating an even worse environmental disaster. Do it that successfully would also save BP millions in cleanup costs along the Gulf Coast. The company will still have to pay millions to help restore marine life that may be harmed in the Gulf. BP doesn't carry insurance against this type of mishap.

"Given the current conditions and the massive size of our response, we are confident in our ability to tackle this spill offshore," Hayward added. Weather reports suggest that the oil won't reach land for at least 72 hours.