BP's chief executive yesterday defended the company's efforts in cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, while conceding that he could yet lose his job over the disaster.
Speaking from BP's US Headquarters in Texas, Tony Hayward, 52, outlined the pressure he was under to try and "fix" the effects of last month's explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig. The incident has so far led to at least four million gallons of oil being pumped into the Gulf of Mexico and threatens the coastline of four US states.
"I think I will be judged by my response," he told The Times. "I don't feel my job is on the line, but of course that might change."
His admission came as the company stepped up its mission to contain the spillage by dropping a small dome on to the underwater leak in an attempt to try and trap the oil at source. The plan came after a similar attempt with a larger "cofferdam" was aborted last week when the funnel become clogged with ice crystals.
BP revealed yesterday that the spill has cost it £308m so far. That figure is likely to rise significantly, particularly if President Obama succeeds in passing a law that would make the oil company accountable for picking up the entire cost of the clean-up operation.
Mr Hayward stressed that the company's efforts to contain the spill had succeeded in preventing large amounts of oil from reaching the shoreline around the Gulf of Mexico. "We will fix it. I guarantee it," he said "The only question we do not know is when."
But in an interview with The Guardian Mr Hayward tried to play down the scale of the spill, saying that the leaked oil and more than 325,000 gallons of dispersant pumped into the sea in an attempt to disperse the slick were comparatively "tiny" amounts.
"The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean," he said. "The amount of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the water volume."
Mr Hayward, who has a house in Sevenoaks, Kent, was relocated from London to the US shortly after the Deepwater explosion on 20 April, which killed 11 workers. Since then he has presided over an emergency operation that has included four Hercules aircraft spraying dispersants, around 530 ocean-going skimmers and 5,000 fishing boats that are towing 1.2 million feet of booms in an attempt to protect the coastline of four US states. The equivalent of around 5,000 barrels are thought to be leaking into the Gulf every day.
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