BP chief defends deepwater drilling
Tony Hayward tells UK panel there is much to learn from Gulf oil spill but says his company has strong safety record.
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2010 18:53 GMT
The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is widely regarded as the biggest environmental disaster in US waters [GALLO/GETTY]

The outgoing chief executive of BP, the energy company widely blamed for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, says the disaster should not lead to a universal ban on deepwater drilling.

Tony Hayward's appearance before a UK parliamentary committee comes as it investigates whether additional regulation is needed in the country and whether the British government was right not to follow a US decision by to impose a moratorium on new deepwater drilling.

"The industry had drilled for 20 years in deep water without a blow-out," he said on Wednesday.

He said inquiries would continue to scrutinise the decisions that contributed to the Gulf spill, which he said he deeply regretted.

"There is much still to learn about the Deepwater Horizon accident," Hayward said, referring to the explosion that led to the biggest ever oil spill in US waters.

He said the oil industry will "significantly enhance the testing protocols of blow-out preventers" following the explosion at BP's Macondo well on April 20, which killed 11 workers and triggered the Gulf spill.

He insisted BP had a strong safety record and was not solely to blame for the disaster.

"No single factor caused the accident, and multiple parties including BP, Haliburton and Transocean were involved," Hayward said.

Pressed for specifics

Tim Yeo, the parliamentary committee's chairman and a former environment minister, asked Hayward and Mark Bly, BP's head of safety and author of an internal report into the Gulf oil spill, for specifics of the mistakes that contributed to the accident.

"My hope is that we can extract the lessons that need to be learned for the future of deep water drilling in the UK," Yeo said.

The British committee has previously taken evidence from Transocean, which like BP has operations in the North Sea off the UK coast, where there are 24 drilling rigs and 280 oil and gas installations.

It will issue a series of recommendations on safety, perhaps before the end of the year, but has no powers to compel Britain's Conservative-led government to accept its findings.

No fresh oil has spewed into the Gulf of Mexico since a temporary cap was successfully fitted to the top of the Macondo well in mid-July.

Mud and cement were later pushed down through the top of the well, allowing for the cap to be removed. A relief well is being drilled so the well that blew out can also be sealed from the bottom, ensuring that it never causes a problem again. 

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