BP chief executive Tony Hayward said cutting away the top of the broken well riser Thursday was the start of the latest process. BP next plans to put a containment device over the leaking well, which has been spewing for six weeks in the worst oil spill in U. S. history.
If successful, the device will begin siphoning at least some of the oil from the well to a ship at the surface.
Meanwhile, the federal government has sent BP a $69 million bill for costs to date.
In an interview to air Thursday on CNN, President Barack Obama said he is “furious” about the situation, and he criticized BP for not responding fast enough to the disaster.
Mr. Obama will return to the Gulf Coast Friday to assess efforts to stop the spill.
The oil leak is threatening wildlife and commerce in the Gulf region. The oil has come ashore in the southeastern states of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, and is approaching the beaches of Florida.
U.S. computer models show the oil could find its way up the east coast of the United States, and even get carried across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. Simulations show the oil could go as far north as Cape Hatteras, North Carolina before turning east.
Researchers cautioned the models were not a forecast.
Oil began spewing into the Gulf of Mexico soon after a drilling rig operated by BP exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers.
BP is digging two emergency relief wells to help seal the leak permanently, but those will not be finished until August.
Some information for this report provided by AP, Reuters and AFP.