BP chief executive Tony Hayward claims that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is relatively ‘tiny’ but admits that his job is at risk over the incident blamed on his company.
Hayward told Friday’s Guardian newspaper that the leaked oil and the estimated 400,000 gallons of dispersant that BP had pumped into the sea to try to tackle the slick should be put in context.
“The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume,” Hayward said.
Asked if he felt his job was under threat, he replied: “I don’t at the moment. That of course may change. I will be judged by the nature of the response.”
BP is facing a growing backlash in the United States as experts warn the spill may be at least 10 times bigger than an official estimate.
Hayward insisted that deep-water drilling would continue in the United States despite angry responses to the incident from environmentalists and politicians.
“Apollo 13 (the unsuccessful third mission to the moon in 1970) did not stop the space race,” he told The Guardian.
“Neither did the Air France plane last year coming out of Brazil (which mysteriously crashed) stop the world airline industry flying people around the world. It’s the same for the oil industry.”
Hayward said it was “unwise” to speculate about the direct causes of the accident before investigations had been completed. “There is a lot of speculation, red herrings and hearsay.”
But he admitted that BP had made mistakes in its early response to the crisis. It initially refused to compensate fishermen who were unable to produce written proof of their normal earnings, according to The Guardian.
“It was a bit bumpy to get it going. We made a few little mistakes early on,” he said.
Some of Hayward’s comments were also carried by The Times newspaper, which reported that the 52-year-old boss had received hate mail about the oil disaster and has had difficulty sleeping.
He has meanwhile refused to watch television news or read newspaper reports about the incident.
“I don’t want my judgement to be clouded by what has been written,” the BP chief said, adding that he would remain based in the United States until the crisis was contained.
The US Coast Guard has said that 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) of crude were gushing from a ruptured well each day.
However, scientists analysing video of the leak released by BP claim that it was closer to 70,000 barrels (2.94 million gallons) a day, with an estimated margin of error of plus or minus 20 percent.
The findings suggest the spill is already the worst environmental disaster in US history, having eclipsed the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.
BP has disputed the results, saying there is no reliable method to calculate how much oil is flowing from the broken pipe.
The Deepwater Horizon rig, leased by BP from Transocean, the world’s largest offshore drilling contractor, sank on April 22, two days after a massive explosion that killed 11 workers.
US President Barack Obama is to meet top advisers Friday to discuss the “next steps” to stem the oil lapping the fragile Gulf Coast as BP readied its latest make-or-break bid to cap the well.
BP on Thursday said that its response costs to the spill had so far totalled about 450 million dollars (358 million euros).
The company’s market value has slumped by about 20 billion pounds (23 billion euros, 29 billion dollars) since the incident.
“BP is under more pressure as the severity of the Gulf of Mexico leak continues to grow,” said IG Index head of research Anthony Grech.
“The company’s stock is now down almost 18 percent since the 20 April explosion, a steep drop even compared to the overall market decline of around seven percent over the same period.”