BP chief refuses resign over disaster, US wants progress

BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward said he has no plans to quit over the massive Gulf of Mexico oil disaster,

BP chief refuses resign over disaster, US wants progress

BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward said he has no plans to quit over the massive Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, as the energy giant's bid to stanch the environmental disaster reached a turning point.

Pressure has been mounting on London-based BP to cap its seabed oil well, which has been gushing for 48 days, and bear the full financial cost of the cleanup and damage caused to Gulf coast fisheries, wildlife and tourism.

Hayward became a lightning rod for Americans' anger with BP when he told struggling Gulf Coast residents last month, "I would like my life back," a remark widely seen as insensitive and which rekindled speculation he may not survive the crisis.

"It hasn't crossed my mind," Hayward when asked by The Sunday Telegraph if he might resign because of the spill. "It's clearly crossed other people's minds but not mine."

Hayward told BBC television he had the full support of BP's board and the company's balance sheet was strong, despite the steep fall in its share price as a result of the disaster.

"BP is ... generating a lot of cash. It will generate $30 to $35 billion of free cash flow this year ... We have the financial strength to see through this," he told the BBC.

After a string of failures, BP made progress with its latest attempt to halt the spill -- a containment dome fixed atop the well. The company said said on Sunday the dome had captured 10,500 barrels of oil in 24 hours.

Hayward told the BBC he hopes the dome will soon channel the "vast majority" of the crude to the surface.

That figure of 10,500 barrels (439,950 gallons/1.67 mln litres) represents a little more than half of the top estimates of oil leaking from the damaged well daily.

The maximum collection rate from the small containment device on the ruptured well, which is about 1 mile (1.6 km) under the ocean's surface, was estimated at about 15,000 barrels per day by U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is heading up the federal oil spill relief efforts.

"We are optimizing the operation," Hayward said. "We have a further containment system to implement in the course of this coming week which will be in place by next weekend. So when these two are in place we would very much hope to be containing the vast majority of the oil."

"We're making the right progress," Allen said on CNN. "I don't think anybody should be pleased as long as there's oil in the water."

Allen told ABC's "This Week" the number of slicks in the water was making the cleanup difficult.

"One of the problems with this entire spill is it's not a monolithic, huge spill," he said. "It's disaggregated itself into hundreds, maybe thousands of smaller pieces of oil."

Dead birds

The Obama administration has delayed plans to increase offshore drilling as a result of the spill. The crisis has put U.S. President Barack Obama on the defensive and distracted his team from their domestic agenda -- a new energy policy, reform of Wall Street and bolstering a struggling American economy.

The focus on America's biggest environmental disaster comes ahead of November's mid-term congressional elections in which the Democrats are expected to struggle to keep their majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.

Oil began leaking from the well after an April 20 rig explosion that killed 11 workers. U.S. government scientists estimate that between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels of oil a day have been pouring into the Gulf of Mexico since then.

BP faces a criminal investigation, lawsuits, dwindling investor confidence and growing questions about its credit-worthiness. Its share price has been stripped of about one-third of its value since the crisis began.

BP said it has spent $1 billion on the spill and vowed to pay all legitimate claims of those harmed by the disaster. It has delayed a decision on whether to suspend payment of its quarterly dividends, despite U.S. political pressure to do so.

After contaminating wetland wildlife refuges in Louisiana and barrier islands in Mississippi and Alabama, the black tide of crude oil has taken aim at some of the famous white beaches of Florida, whose economy is heavily dependent on tourism.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist told CNN the oil debris washing up on Panhandle beaches was relatively easy to clean up because it was landing on the famous sugar-white beaches instead of in marshes or estuaries, as in Louisiana.

"It's easier to clean up off the beaches as we're able to do this past weekend in Pensacola," he said. "We were disappointed that it came on the beach at all but then able to clean it up fairly rapidly."

Fully one-third of the Gulf's federal waters, or 78,603 square miles (202,582 square km), remains closed to fishing, and the toll of dead and injured birds and marine animals, including sea turtles and dolphins, is climbing.


Reuters

Last Mod: 06 Haziran 2010, 18:26
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