UAE joins Louisiana oil spill clean-up response

Assistance is likely to be in the form of equipment, analysts say, as Abu Dhabi-based company confirms that it is involved

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The UAE is sending resources to the Gulf of Mexico to help tackle the huge oil spill caused by the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig. Philip Crowley, an assistant secretary of the US Department of State, said he was grateful for the offer.

The United Nations and 14 other countries have also offered assistance. The leak, 80km off the Louisiana coast and 1,500 metres underwater, was the result of a blast three weeks ago in which 11 workers were killed. Seacor Environmental Services, an Abu Dhabi-based company, said yesterday that it was to take part in the response. "We have a contract with Adnoc and we are working with them to provide resources for the response," said Alex Spence, the company's regional general manager. He declined to give any further details.

According to Seacor's website, the company provides environmental, industrial and emergency responses, including "oil spill response management and clean-up". Adnoc was unavailable for comment. Robin Mills, a petroleum economist for the Dubai Government-owned Emirates National Oil Company, said it was likely that the UAE's assistance would be geared towards reducing the environmental impact of the spill.

"The most obvious thing to help with is coastal defence to prevent oil from washing to the shore and getting to the beaches. That would be the relevant thing, the clean-up stuff," he said. Analysts said the different operating environment in the Gulf of Mexico meant that it was unlikely that the UAE would send a large team of people. They suggested that help was more likely to offered be in the form of equipment.

"I think they will help tackling the oil from washing to the shore," said Mr Mills. "It's more likely to be equipment. The bulk of work is being done by specialists in the US." British Petroleum (BP), which leased the rig, has been leading the response, along with the US Coast Guard. The UAE's offer comes amid growing concerns that the spill may become the worst in US history. Lamar McKay, the president of BP America, Steven Newman, the president of the drilling company Transocean, and Tim Probert, a senior executive at Halliburton, were questioned about the spill by two Senate committees yesterday.

Rudolf Leeman, an analyst at the investment bank UBS, said: "There is no quick fix at hand. The spill will probably continue for another one to nine weeks until it can be stopped. This makes it likely that oil will reach the shore. "With floating booms and dispersants this can be delayed, but it is still likely to eventually happen." This would result in higher clean-up costs, Mr Leeman said. "Currently, control and clean-up operations cost US$6 million (Dh22m) per day, but this is likely to increase to probably $10m, once the oil gets on shore," he said. "We assume these costs to continue for another two to three months. This translates to around $600m."