Gluey gobs of thick oil from BP Plc's Gulf of Mexico spill washed ashore in Mississippi for the first time on Sunday as Russia called for a special levy on oil companies to finance a fund to help clean up environmental disasters like this one.
BP and the U.S. Coast Guard kept a close watch on tropical depression Alex as it moved into the southwestern gulf.
Forecasters expect Alex to make landfall again as a hurricane early on Thursday between Brownsville, Texas, and Tuxpan de Rodriguez Cano in Mexico, sparing BP's oil collection efforts at its ruptured deep-sea well.
The oil spill, which began on April 20, has caused an economic and environmental disaster along the U.S. Gulf Coast, threatening fisheries, tourism and wildlife.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who heads the world's biggest energy producer, made a proposal for a global pollution fund at the Group of 20 summit in Toronto. He said G20 leaders had asked experts to work on the idea.
One of the ideas, which still needs discussion, is for dues from major international companies which produce oil to be placed into a special consolidated fund or, and perhaps together with that, for the insurance of such risks paid for by those corresponding dues, Medvedev told reporters.
Russia has paid close attention to BP's reaction to the Gulf spill, the largest in U.S. history, partly because 25 percent of the British energy giant's global output comes from its Moscow-based TNK-BP joint venture.
Louisiana's fragile wetlands have been hardest hit by the oil but Mississippi had escaped damage until Sunday, although some oil had tainted its barrier islands. Oil has also come ashore in Alabama and Florida's Gulf coast.
Gluey gobs of brown oil and rainbow oil sheen sloshed onto tourist beaches at Ocean Springs, Mississippi, about 10 miles east of Biloxi, and at a beach used by fisherman that is close to an inland marsh.
Mississippi state officials and the U.S. Coast Guard, who said they expect more oil to arrive, were waiting on BP contractors to start cleaning up.
Life as I know it is over. What are we going to do if nobody cares to act fast enough? asked Mike Hollings, a local resident who cried as he stared at the oil on the beach.
We cannot clean up or catch the oil until BP gets here. They have all of our people, said Earl Etheridge, a spokesman for Mississippi's Department of Environmental Quality.
The British newspaper the Sunday Times reported that BP's drilling of relief wells, intended to plug its leaking deep-sea well, is going more quickly than expected and the company could stop the flow of oil in mid-July. That would be about two weeks earlier than BP's current public projection of early August.
The newspaper cited sources with knowledge of the operation. A BP spokesperson declined to comment on the report and referred to a company statement on Friday that the two relief wells -- begun on May 2 and May 16 -- were estimated to take approximately three months to finish.
Shell Oil shut subsea production at two platforms and BP evacuated some personnel from three Gulf of Mexico platforms due to the threat of Alex, the companies said. All five platforms are in deepwater areas of the Gulf, far offshore and on the northern edge of some forecasters' projected tracks for Alex.
Meteorologists predict a very active Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30.
Alex, the first named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, had sustained winds of 35 mph and was about 55 miles south-southwest of Campeche. The system was moving west-northwest at 9 mph.
Even if it misses the spill area, large waves could hamper clean-up efforts from Louisiana to Florida from the spill.
The U.S. government estimates that up to 60,000 barrels of oil (2.5 million gallons/9.5 million liters) per day are spewing from BP's damaged well on the seabed about a mile below the surface.
While awaiting the completion of the relief wells to finally plug the leak, BP has been using two oil collection systems to prevent some of the oil from its ruptured well from spewing into the sea. BP said on Sunday its crews had collected or burned off 22,750 barrels of oil on Saturday.
Equipment going to the leak site this week could raise daily collection to 53,000 barrels, officials say, and a review is scheduled of a system that may boost it to 80,000 barrels.
Shares of BP have been savaged since the crisis started and fell another 6 percent to a 14-year low on Friday.
The costs to BP include but are not limited to a $20 billion compensation fund it set up under U.S. pressure. BP said it has paid out $2.35 billion so far in clean-up and compensation costs.
(Additional reporting by Adrian Virgen in Campeche, Mexico, Ernest Scheyder in Grande Isle, Bruce Nichols in Houston, Sarah Young in London and Caren Bohan in Toronto; Writing by Jerry Norton; Editing by Will Dunham and Cynthia Osterman)