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'Top Hat' Dome at Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Site - BP

A new steel container dome has been placed beside the damaged oil well polluting the Gulf of Mexico since last month's drilling rig disaster, BP says.

Aerial view of the Discoverer Enterprise deepwater drillship (which is capable of drilling a well more than 6.5 miles beneath its drill floor), at the site of the BP Deepwater Horizon platform disaster in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana on May 9, 2010. (AFP/Mark Ralston) Dubbed the "top hat", it is smaller than a first container dome which had to be set aside after becoming blocked by crystallised gas hydrates.

It is on the seabed but is being kept away from the well for now, BP said.

Some 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) of oil a day have been leaking into the sea from the damaged well.

The dome is meant to funnel some of the escaping oil to a waiting tanker on the surface.

"The 'top hat' was lowered to the seabed floor last night and is presently... in the immediate area of the leak and the plan is to have that positioned over the leak and functioning by the end of the week," BP's Bryan Ferguson told AFP news agency.

Blame exchanged

Eleven people died when an explosion - thought to have occurred after a surge of methane gas from deep within the well - destroyed the Deepwater Horizon rig on 20 April.

On Tuesday, BP and other oil industry executives traded blame in Congress as the battle to contain the spill continued in the Gulf.

The British oil giant told a Senate hearing that a crucial safety device made by drilling contractor Transocean had failed.

Senators heard Transocean argue in turn that BP had been in charge and that a third firm, a BP contractor, did not plug the exploratory well properly.

President Barack Obama was said by the White House to be "deeply frustrated" the oil leak had yet to be stopped.

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