The oil producer would be able to get the 400,000 barrel-per-day field back to full production by the end of October, Steve Marshall, president of BP Alaska, said on Thursday.

 

Marshall was speaking at US government inquiry into why BP's Alaska pipelines have leaked oil into some of the most unspoilt wildernesses of North America.

 

Members of the US congress told the hearing that BP is responsible for the corroded and poorly maintained pipelines.

 

"Years of neglecting to inspect two of the most vital oil pipelines in this country is simply unacceptable," Joe Barton, chairman of the house energy and commerce committee, said.

 

BP's Alaskan operation is the largest in North America,

and since its closure in March it has come under a federal criminal investigation.

 

Executives remain silent

 

At the hearing Richard Woollam, BP's former head of corrosion management at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, asserted his right under the fifth amendment of the US constitution to refrain from giving testimony that could incriminate him.

 

He was was later whisked away from the hearing room by his lawyers.

 

BP executives later told the court that he had been out of his Alaska role since early last year after a report by the law firm Vincent and Elkins found evidence that senior managers intimidated oil field workers to keep them from blowing the whistle on shoddy maintenance practices.

 

A source familiar with the congressional investigation told a news agency that Woollam had been put on leave from his job with BP in Houston only on Wednesday.

 

Robert Malone, chairman and president of BP America and the company's most senior US executive, said BP had fallen short of its own standards.

 

Beyond environment

 

BP, formerly British Petroleum, has marketed itself as friendly to the environment with advertising slogans such as "Beyond Petroleum".

 

"BP stands for a company with bloated profits that failed to fix broken pipelines," Ed Markey, the democrat representing Massachusetts, said.

 

BP's image in the United States has been tarnished by a string of accidents, oil spills and allegations of market manipulation since an explosion at a refinery in Texas in March last year killed 15 people and injured scores more.