Cap Placed on BP Well but Oil Still Spewing

underwater image of BP oil spill container being lowered onto spill
Updated at 11:20 p.m. EDT

BP was trying to put a lid on the Gulf oil gusher.

Live video showed that an inverted funnel-like cap slightly wider than a severed pipe was being maneuvered into place Thursday night over the oil spewing from a busted well. However, the gushing oil made it very difficult to tell if the cap was fitting well. BP spokesman Toby Odone said he had no immediate information on whether the cap was successfully attached.

A rubber seal on the inside will attempt to keep oil from escaping, though engineers acknowledge some crude will still come out.

BP sliced off the main pipe on the leaking oil well with giant shears in the latest bid to curtail the worst oil spill in U.S. history, but the cut was jagged, and a looser fitting cap will be needed.

"We'll have to see when we get the containment cap on it just how effective it is," said Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man for the disaster.

BP PLC turned to the giant shears after a diamond-tipped saw became stuck in the pipe halfway through the job, yet another frustrating delay in the six-week-old spill.

If the cap can be put on successfully, BP will siphon the oil and gas to a tanker on the surface.

Earlier Thursday at the water's edge, a dazed brown pelican - Louisiana's state bird - dripped with oil. A few feet away, a green herring was dying, suffocating in oil.

And on East Grand Terre, a barrier island, governor Bobby Jindal was furious, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassman. In these birds' struggle, he saw coastal Louisiana's new reality.

"It's not only heartbreaking but it ticks us off," said Jindal. "These are birds trapped in this oil. This shows you what's at risk along our coast."

The more governor Jindal talked about the birds, the more angry he became.

Waves of spilled crude have smeared more than 140 miles of Louisiana coastline.

Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf

BP CEO Tony Hayward gave a brief statement and took questions at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

"Over the last 36 hours we've cleared the riser from the top of the well head, and the team is working to complete the clean up operation until we put the cap on the well," he said.

Appearing more contrite about the oil spill Thursday than he did over the weekend when he said "I'd like my life back," Hayward stressed BP's commitment to taking care of the clean-up and to stopping the leak.

"Our commitment is to work with the communities and societies of the Gulf coast to give them back their lives as soon as we can," he said. "We're not sparing any resources in terms of effort, people and equipment."

At one point he said, "We will be here for a very long time."

Hayward said there would be a better indication of the cap's effectiveness in the next 12 to 24 hours. When asked about relief wells, he said, "Relief wells continue on plan. They're targeting to be at the reservoir Horizon in August."

Even if the cap works, BP engineers expect oil to continue leaking into the ocean.

This latest attempt to control the spill, the so-called cut-and-cap method, is considered risky because slicing away a section of the 20-inch-wide riser removed a kink in the pipe, and could temporarily increase the flow of oil by as much as 20 percent.

Hayward conceded the attempt was risky, but said the risk was reduced when the pipe was cut away.

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President Barack Obama will return to the Louisiana coast Friday to assess the latest efforts, his third trip to the region since the April 20 disaster. It's also his second visit in a week.

The White House said the federal government was sending BP a $69 million bill for costs so far in the spill. Spokesman Robert Gibbs said the bill was the first to be sent to the oil company, which leased the rig that exploded April 20 and sank two days later. Eleven people were killed.

So far, anywhere between 21 million and 46 million gallons of oil has spewed into the Gulf, according to government estimates.

The effect on wildlife has grown.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported 522 dead birds - at least 38 of them oiled - along the Gulf coast states, and more than 80 oiled birds have been rescued. It's not clear exactly how many of the deaths can be attributed to the spill.

In other developments:

• The White House says President Barack Obama will return to the Gulf Coast Friday to assess the latest efforts to counter the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

• According to a New York Times report, the possibility of plugging the leak using nuclear weapons won't happen.

• President Obama said it is time to roll back billions of dollars in tax breaks for oil companies and use the money for clean energy research and development.

• A pair of Democratic senators pressed BP to delay plans to pay shareholder dividends worth $10 billion or more. They called it "unfathomable" that BP would pay out a dividend before the total cost of the cleanup is known. BP had no comment.

• More fishing grounds were closed. More than one-third of federal waters in the Gulf are now off-limits to fishing, along with hundreds of square miles of state waters.

"I'm going to be bankrupt very soon," said fisherman Hong Le, who came to the U.S. from Vietnam and rebuilt his home and business after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 wiped him out. "Everything is financed. How can I pay? No fishing, no welding. I weld on commercial fishing boats and they aren't going out now, so nothing breaks."