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BP's cost for Gulf spill cleanup rises to $3.12 billion

NEW ORLEANS - BP's costs for the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill climbed nearly half a billion dollars in the past week, raising the oil giant's tab to just over $3 billion for work on cleaning and capping the gusher and payouts to individuals, businesses and governments.

London-based BP PLC, the largest oil and gas producer in the Gulf, released its latest tally of response costs yesterday. The total of $3.12 billion was up from $2.65 billion a week earlier. The figure does not include a $20-billion fund for Gulf damages BP created last month.

The company is also billing partners Anadarko Petroleum Corp., based in Texas, and Japan's Mitsui for their shares of the cleanup. BP has billed Anadarko, a 25 percent stakeholder in the blown-out well, for more than a quarter-billion dollars so far. It also has reportedly billed Mitsui, a 10 percent partner, for $111 million.

As BP continued drilling relief wells that are the best hope for plugging the blown-out well, a giant new oil skimming vessel was tested in the Gulf. But lousy weather means it may be longer than first hoped before officials know if it can work full-time sucking crude from the sea.

The Taiwanese skimmer dubbed "A Whale" has been able to show off its maneuverability during a weekend test in a 25-mile-square patch of water just north of the site of the April 20 explosion. The blast at the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig killed 11 workers and started the worst oil spill in Gulf history.

TMT, the shipping firm that owns A Whale, had hoped to test a containment boom system designed to direct greater volumes of oily water into the 12 vents or "jaws" that the ship uses to suck it in, according to spokesman Bob Grantham.

But lingering bad weather in the form of stiff winds and choppy seas has made that impossible, and prevented a flotilla of smaller skimmers from working offshore along the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. The smaller skimmers have been idle off the coasts since a spell of bad weather last week kicked up by Hurricane Alex.

Early to mid-August is still the time frame for the completion of the drilling.

Meanwhile, tar balls on a pair of Texas beaches were confirmed Monday as the first evidence that gushing crude from the Deepwater Horizon well has reached all of the Gulf states.

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