16 Sep 2010

Hayward defends BP's safety procedures

6:39 pm on 16 September 2010

The outgoing head of BP has defended the company's safety procedures, saying the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico reflects flaws in the industry at large.

The leak began after an explosion and fire on the Deepwater Explorer drilling rig on 20 April, killing 11 workers, and was not stopped until 15 July.

In testimony to a committee of the British parliament, chief executive Tony Hayward said the failings which caused the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig and subsequent spill were not particular to BP, the BBC reports.

Mr Hayward also described the spill as devastating to him personally. He said drilling in the Gulf of Mexico poses a particular challenge.

The Commons Energy Committee questioned Mr Hayward and BP's head of safety Mark Bly on the company's attitude to safety.

Asked whether BP paid sufficient regard to safety matters, Mr Hayward told the committee that over the past three years the company had made a major investment in safety, spending $US14 billion and recruiting thousands of people.

"And it is undeniably the fact that because of all of that, this particular incident is so devastating to me personally because we have made an enormous amount of progress in that three-year period," he said.

On Wednesday, The Financial Times reported that inspection records showed BP did not comply with rules about regular training for offshore operators on how to respond to an oil spill.

Mr Bly told MPs the issue had been addressed: "It is true a handful of people - less than 10 - had not undergone all the training, which was mostly a computer-based refresher."

Mr Bly led an internal investigation by BP into the reasons for the explosion. It found BP was responsible in part for the tragedy, but also placed some blame on rig owner Transocean and cement contractor Halliburton.

Mr Hayward strongly denied cost-cutting was a factor in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, telling MPs that "safety is the first call on every dollar BP invests. Before we invest in anything, we invest in safety".