BP CEO Tony Hayward on Deepwater Horizon 'It Is Too Early to Talk about Liabilities'
Oil giant BP has accepted responsibility for cleaning up the oil spill from the sunken rig in the Gulf of Mexico, which could be the biggest environmental catastrophe in American history. In an interview with SPIEGEL, BP CEO Tony Hayward says that, while his company is ready and able to pay for containing the damage, the spill does not mean the end for deep water drilling.
SPIEGEL: Do you have any idea of the financial consequences of the Deepwater Horizon accident for BP?
Tony Hayward: We have not been able to come up with a final figure because it will depend on how the consequences of this terrible accident develop, as well as whether we are successful in stopping the oil leak and how effective we are at containing the damage. What we do know is that the daily cost of our response -- to BP and to its equity partners in the oilfield, Anadarko and Mitsui -- is more than $6 million (4.6 million) -- and that looks likely to rise.
SPIEGEL: BP has said that it will cover all legitimate claims for damages. Some analysts are already suggesting that the total figure may be as high as $14 billion. Can BP handle this kind of outlay?
Hayward: I cannot confirm your figure. But I would simply point out that BP is a very large company and more than capable of coping with the financial consequences of this event.
SPIEGEL: To what extent is Transocean, the offshore drilling contractor, to blame for the accident?
Hayward: It is too early to talk about liabilities. I have simply pointed out that this accident took place on a drilling rig owned and operated by Transocean, but that BP has responsibility for dealing with the consequences and that we take that responsibility with the utmost seriousness.
SPIEGEL: In recent years BP has been cultivating the image of an environmentally conscious company. What does this disaster mean for that image?
Hayward: Clearly this accident poses some challenges to our reputation. I have said from the outset that we will be judged by the speed, scale, quality, intensity and ultimately the success of our response. We are determined to succeed in containing this spill and stopping the leak. If we do so, and are seen to do everything in our power to support the affected region and local communities, then I see no reason why we should not emerge with our reputation intact.
SPIEGEL: There has been a trend toward moving oil drilling out to ever deeper waters. Do you believe that this incident will put a halt to that trend? Has the oil industry pushed too far?
Hayward: In drilling for, and producing, oil from ever deeper waters, the energy industry is clearly working at the frontiers of geology, geography and technology. But I don't believe it is beyond our capability. On the contrary: Until this accident, the deep water oil business had a very strong safety record stretching over at least two decades. So there's no question that deep water exploration and production can be pursued very safely. In this case, tragically, the safety systems on the drilling rig failed to work. As an industry, we urgently need to understand what happened and why, and take steps to ensure it never happens again.
SPIEGEL: The US government has banned oil drilling in any new areas off the US coast while the spill is being investigated. Does deep-sea drilling still have a future?
Hayward: I think it is understandable and right that government and industry should pause to reflect after this disaster -- and that offshore (drilling) should only be pursued once public confidence in deep-water offshore (drilling) is restored. But I also believe that after a sensible debate, US legislators will come to the conclusion that the Gulf of Mexico and other offshore regions are a vital contributor to US energy security, and to meeting rising global demand for energy.
SPIEGEL: Have you considered resigning over this incident?
Hayward: On the contrary: Right now I am completely focused on fulfilling my principal responsibility in these circumstances: That is, to lead BP's effective and successful response to this accident.
Interview conducted by Alexander Jung