BP's efforts to limit the worst oil spill in US history will be hampered by a major storm that could reach hurricane strength later Tuesday, dpa reported.
Tropical storm Alex was moving north-west through the Gulf of Mexico with winds "just below hurricane strength" and was expected to make landfall in northern Mexico on Wednesday, according to the US National Weather Service.
The storm, while still far from the spill site, was already causing massive waves that will delay by about a week an operation to collect most of the oil gushing from the ruptured well at the bottom of the ocean, BP said.
Other containment measures including the drilling of relief wells and skimming on the surface will also likely have to be temporarily shut down in coming days as vessels are forced to return to shore.
The oil spill caused by Deepwater Horizon oil rig's explosion on April 20 has dealt a heavy economic and ecological toll on the four southern US states along the Gulf Coast. Anger has been building along the coast with each day that the spill remains uncontained.
US President Barack Obama's administration has come under fire from critics for a lacklustre response to the catastrophe. Vice President Joe Biden was in Louisiana on Tuesday to survey the damage and meet with local officials.
BP has been collecting nearly 25,000 barrels of oil per day by siphoning oil from a containment cap on the leaking well up to two vessels on the surface. Anywhere from 35,000 to 60,000 barrels are estimated to be gushing out of the well daily.
The storm means that efforts to link a third vessel to the containment cap, which would increase the capacity to as much as 50,000 barrels, will be delayed by about a week, predicted BP senior Vice President Kent Wells.
BP has been on track to finish attaching the third vessel by the end of June, but the looming hurricane meant "it will be roughly a week after that," Wells said.