BP Chief Admits It Was Not Prepared for Oil Spill

The head of BP PLC admitted yesterday that his company has not done enough to prepare for disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. According to The Wall Street Journal, Chief Executive Tony Hayward also told journalists in Houston, Texas last night that he didn’t think his job was in jeopardy because of the disaster, but conceded that could change.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which BP PLC leased from TransOcean LTD, exploded off the coast of Louisiana on April 20 and sank two days later. Eleven rig workers missing since the blast are presumed dead. The explosion also spawned a massive oil spill that now threatens much of the Gulf Coast. An estimated 5,000 barrels of oil -210,000 gallons – is gushing from the leaking well each day, though there are fears that the true amount is far higher.

So far, BP has not had little success in stopping the gushing. This past weekend, BP’s efforts to use a large containment dome failed after hydrates – ice-like crystals – formed and clogged the structure and made it buoyant. A smaller structure the company hopes will avoid that problem has been moved to the sea floor.

If the smaller dome doesn’t work, two other short-term fixes are being considered. One is to thread a pipe directly into the leak to suck up the oil and carry it to a ship on the surface. BP is also planning to try and block the crude flow with a “junk shot,” in which materials including golf balls, knotted rope and shredded tires will be shot at high pressure into the well’s failed subsea blow-out preventer. It will be two weeks before that process is completed.

BP has also started drilling a containment dome to contain the leak permanently, but that process could take as long as three months.

Hayward said that his company had not had the technology available to stop the leak, and was “creating it as we go.” He also said in hindsight, it was “probably true” that BP should have done more to prepare for such an emergency, the Journal said.

It’s a pretty stunning admission. As the Journal pointed out, BP is by far the biggest player in deepwater oil exploration. Critics have maintained that it should have had a better plan in place for containing a disaster like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Meanwhile, some of the people who stand to lose the most because of this disaster met with BP officials in Port Sulphur, Louisiana yesterday. They included fisherman, shrimpers and others whose livelihood and way of life are threatened by this ecological catastrophe. Many complained that BP’s claims process for reimbursing them for their lost income was taking too long, mainly because BP won’t expediate claims over $5,000.

Hayward agreed that the process was taking too long, the Journal said. But he also put some of the blame on fisherman, saying some were not able to provide paperwork to prove their income.

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