NEW ORLEANS (AP)- As officials reported a gradual increase in the amount of oil being captured from a spewing wellhead at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico on Monday, BP PLC said it plans to replace the cap collecting the crude with a slightly bigger device next month.
The newer cap will "provide a better, tighter fit" than the current one collecting roughly one-third to three-fourths of the oil gushing daily from the sea floor, company spokesman Robert Wine told The Associated Press.
The oil began spewing forth after a BP oil rig explosion April 20 and recently increased after officials cut the pipe carrying the flow as part of the latest containment effort.
BP believes the bigger cap will fit over more of the outflow pipe than the current cap, Wine said, but the change will allow the oil now being collected to again spew out into the Gulf during the changeover.
Wine acknowledged the frustration people must have when they look at the video feeds from undersea that show a lot of oil still flowing into the sea.
"We want to capture every drop of oil that is still leaking," he said. "We want to protect the coastline and repair the coastline that has been damaged."
Officials say the current cap is collecting more than 460,000 gallons of oil per day. BP continues to drill relief wells in hopes of a permanent solution.
Wine said the estimate of the proportion of gushing oil being collected is based on the government's contention that the containment cap is collecting 466,200 gallons of oil of the roughly 604,800 to 1,260,000 it believes is coming out daily.
Cutting the riser likely increased the flow of oil by 20 percent from the 504,000 to 1,050,000 gallons the government contends was coming out previously, Wine said.
Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man for the oil spill response, provided the updated oil-collection figure during a news conference earlier Monday at the White House.