BP will continue to test the unknown this week after efforts to control oil gushing from its ruptured MC252 well in the Gulf of Mexico failed over the weekend.

BP was unable to cap the leak using the 90t containment dome it created because of the presence of flammable hydrate formations.

The four-storey, 98t dome was built in two weeks and was designed to sit over the leaking pipe and funnel in the hope that it would stop 85% of oil from rising to the surface.

BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles told Reuters that new options were being looked at including the possible use of a smaller top-hat containment dome or tapping directly into the well riser pipe.

The spill is spreading west towards the important shipping channels and seafood-rich areas of the central Louisiana coast.

At least 5,000 barrels of oil a day have been leaking unchecked into the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on 20 April, rupturing the well and resulting in 11 crew members missing, presumed dead.