It will take some time for the device to reach the bottom and be connected to a vessel on the surface that will store the leaking oil, but BP hopes to have it up and running by Monday, he said. "It has never been done before at these depths," he added.
BP technicians are also investigating the possibility of capping the leaking well by injecting heavy fluids directly into the top of the blowout preventer that sits on top of the well, the spokesman said. It isn't certain BP will go ahead with this technique, which has also never been attempted in such deep water, he said.
BP is also drilling a relief well, which should eventually halt the flow of oil from the seabed, a process that could take three months.
Officials leading the response to the oil spill triggered when the Deepwater Horizon rig sank April 22 confirmed Thursday that oil had washed up on the Chandeleur Islands of Louisiana. BP confirmed earlier this week that the well could begin to spew 60,000 barrels a day in a worst-case scenario, 12 times the previous estimate.
Also on Thursday, the Obama administration put on hold some plans to expand offshore drilling. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said no new permits would be issued at least until officials completed a review of the Gulf spill.
Mr. Salazar said a review of events surrounding the spill would be completed by May 28 and recommendations would be made to the president. He didn't say whether new drilling permits would be issued after that date.
"There are some very major mistakes that were made by the companies involved" in the Gulf spill, Mr. Salazar told reporters during a press conference at BP's Houston offices.
In addition, the Interior Department canceled meetings that were key to proceeding with new leases to drill off the coast of Virginia. The department had planned three meetings in May to provide opportunity for public comment as part of the process for auctioning off leases to explore for oil and gas off the coast of Virginia. It said Thursday it was temporarily postponing those meetings so that a review of offshore drilling safety issues requested by President Barack Obama could be considered at the meetings.
In Louisiana, teams spent two days searching the area before locating oil sheen Thursday morning on a beach at Freemason Island in the south end of the Chandeleur chain, according to the Unified Command, the coalition of U.S. Coast Guard, BP, federal and state authorities working to stop the gusher.
The oil arrived several hours earlier than the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had predicted. NOAA had also said on Wednesday that within 72 hours, the outer edges of the slick could reach the coast near Grand Isle, La., to the west and islands just off the coast of Mississippi to the east.
The agency has said oil could make landfall on the eastern Gulf coasts of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle in two or three days, but it has rebutted suggestions that Gulf currents could soon carry oil east around the Florida Keys to Miami.
Fisherman and guide Jeff Johnson, of Empire, La., on Wednesday said he discovered "a thick mass of oil" roughly a dozen miles off the coast, beyond the Southeast Pass. He said he dipped a white rag in the substance and it turned a deep shade of brown when he removed it.
"I had to use my engine prop to churn it up to the surface," he said. "What concerns me is that it sat low in the water, maybe too low for the containment boom to catch it."
On Friday, BP began lowering a newly constructed 98-ton containment dome over two leaks in the Deepwater Horizon well at the seabed. BP is attempting to install the dome to funnel the oil up to a drilling rig.
A senior BP executive on Thursday told reporters at an event in Boston that after a week "we'll have a good idea" whether the dome works. Robert Dudley, BP's executive vice president for the Americas and Asia, also cautioned that such technology was untested at this depth, 5,000 feet below the surface.
Mr. Dudley said BP also was considering installing a "top kill" device, which would send a heavy liquid into the well to reduce the flow of leaking oil.
—James Herron, Jason Womack, Siobhan Hughes, Jon Kamp and Aparajita Saha-Bubna contributed to this article.
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