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BP chief vows to stay, sees progress in oil spill

Pensacola Beach, Florida, June 6, 2010

BP chief executive Tony Hayward said he did not plan to quit over the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill, as the energy giant's bid to contain the crude appeared to reach a turning point.

Public and political pressure has been mounting on London-based BP to cap its gushing seabed oil well and take full financial responsibility for the cleanup and damage caused to Gulf coast fisheries, wildlife and tourism.

Hayward became a lightning rod for Americans' anger with BP when he told struggling Gulf Coast residents last month, 'I would like my life back,' a remark widely seen as insensitive and which rekindled speculation he may not survive the crisis.

'It hasn't crossed my mind. It's clearly crossed other people's minds but not mine,' Hayward told The Sunday Telegraph in an interview when asked if he had thought of stepping down as head of BP due to the outcry over the oil spill.

Hayward told BBC television he had the full support of BP's board and the company's balance sheet was strong, despite the steep fall in its share price as a result of the disaster.

'BP is running very well today. It's generating a lot of cash. It will generate $30 to $35 billion of free cash flow this year ... We have the financial strength to see through this,' he said in an interview with the BBC.

BP also seemed to make headway with its latest attempt to halt the spill -- a containment dome fixed atop the well. Hayward said the dome was capturing a large proportion of the oil leaking from the oil and he hoped it would soon be able to channel the 'vast majority' of the crude to the surface.

'The containment cap is producing around 10,000 barrels of oil a day to the the surface which is being processed on the surface,' Hayward told the BBC.

The figure of 10,000 barrels (419,000 gallons/1.59 mln litres) represented a little more than half of the top estimates of oil leaking from the damaged well each day, but it seemed like progress in a crisis now 48 days old.

The maximum collection rate from the small containment device on the ruptured well about one mile (1.6 km) under the ocean's surface was estimated at about 15,000 barrels per day by US Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is heading up the federal oil spill relief efforts.

'We are optimizing the operation. We have a further containment system to implement in the course of this coming week which will be in place by next weekend,' said Hayward. 'So when these two are in place we would very much hope to be containing the vast majority of the oil.'  - Reuters   




Tags: BP | oil spill | Gulf Coast |

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