BP: Mistake to Discourage Investment in Deep-Water Oil

LONDON (Dow Jones Newswires), June 22, 2010

It would be a mistake if the regulatory response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill created an environment in which investment in deep-water oil production becomes impossible, BP's Global Chief of Staff Steve Westwell said Tuesday.

"I don't believe it should stop all further deep-water production," he said at the World National Oil Companies Congress in London.

"Companies have been drilling in deep water in the Gulf Of Mexico for 20 years and until now have had a good safety record."

Westwell acknowledged the Gulf of Mexico oil spill will have "a profound impact on not only how we run BP, but the rest of the industry."

To ensure another disaster like the Deepwater Horizon accident doesn't happen again, the industry must plan better for low-probability, high-impact events and develop new capabilities for handling deep-water well blowouts, he said.

Jay Pryor, Global Vice President of Business Development at U.S. oil giant Chevron, also emphasized the need to keep drilling in deep water despite the disaster. The accident aboard the Deepwater Horizon was an "isolated incident" and "shutting down or scaling back on deep-water development in the Gulf...would be a step backward for energy security," he said.

Governments in other countries with deep-water oil industries like Brazil and Angola understand the need to carry on and have been supportive in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico spill, Pryor said.

Westwell was filling in at the conference for embattled BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward, who was unable to appear due to other operational commitments at the company. Hayward and BP have been heavily criticized for his handling of the spill.

Westwell's speech was interrupted by three Greenpeace protesters shouting criticism of the company's environmental record.

Hayward has returned to London from the U.S. to resume his regular duties overseeing the operations of the whole company, Westwell said.

Day-to-day control of the Gulf of Mexico has passed to BP executive Robert Dudley, but it remains Hayward's main priority, Westwell said.

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