NEW ORLEANS - Underpromising with hopes of overdelivering, BP said Sunday that it is making progress on what could prove its most effective effort yet to contain the Gulf oil leak, but cautioned that the verdict could be several days away.
A new cap being placed atop the gusher is intended to provide a tight seal and might eventually allow the oil giant to capture all the crude leaking from the well for the first time since an April 20 oil rig explosion set off the environmental crisis. But several prior failed attempts to stop the leak have made BP PLC careful to keep expectations grounded.
"We're pleased with our progress," said BP senior vice president Kent Wells, who then hastened to add the operation was still expected to last up to six more days.
Meanwhile, BP declined to comment Sunday on a report that it is in talks about possibly selling $12 billion worth of assets, including a stake in Alaska's Prudhoe Bay oil field, to Houston-based Apache Corp. The British newspaper Sunday Times said Apache was discussing the possibility of acquiring BP assets.
BP spokesman Robert Wine and Apache spokesman Bob Dye both said their companies would not comment on "speculation."
The Sunday Times also reported that Texas-based ExxonMobil is considering a bid for BP. Citing oil industry sources, the paper said ExxonMobil had approached the Obama administration for clearance to make a takeover offer. ExxonMobil couldn't be reached for comment.
Between 88 million and 174 million gallons have already spilled into the Gulf, according to federal estimates.
A Navy blimp has started looking for oil and distressed wildlife in the Gulf. The Coast Guard commander of the operation, Tony Lombardi, said Sunday that initial flights are over the coast of Alabama, but the missions will be expanded as needed and as the weather allows.
Also Sunday, Ken Feinberg, in charge of providing compensation for spill victims, told CNN's "State of the Union" that he's ready to give those eligible a full six months' worth of emergency payments on a single request.