WASHINGTON // BP pressed on with its bid to cap the Gulf of Mexico spill yesterday as it emerged the company's chief executive is handing over day-to-day management of the leak operation to another top manager. Tony Hayward, who was given a public mauling by US lawmakers on Thursday and who has been targeted by President Barack Obama for his handling of the spill, will hand the daily operations over to Bob Dudley, said the BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg to the UK's Sky news yesterday.
The announcement came a day after Mr Hayward, so far BP's main public face for its clean-up operation, was pilloried by a US House panel investigating the causes of the April explosion which destroyed a BP-leased rig off Louisiana. Yesterday the British company faced another blow to its tattered image as Moody's credit agency cut BP's rating by three notches, warning the clean-up costs will weigh on the oil giant for years.
This week BP agreed to set aside US$20 billion (Dh73bn) in an escrow fund over the next four years to pay compensation to the stricken Gulf residents. On Thursday, to the frustration and anger of the House panel, Mr Hayward repeatedly refused to be drawn on the causes of the explosion and whether there had been any negligence on BP's part, drawing lawmakers' ridicule and scorn. A day earlier, he had been summoned to the White House by Mr Obama.
US experts believe between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels are spewing into the Gulf every day from the ruptured wellhead, and creeping ashore in four southern US states shutting down the fishing industry and sullying tourist beaches. Seeking to end a nightmare week on a high note, officials said BP was now containing more of the spill as it works towards capping it for good. "In the 24-hour period ending at midnight last night, we were able to recover 25,000 barrels of oil," Thad Allen, the US Coast Guard admiral coordinating the response to the worst oil spill in US history, said. Mr Allen said the flow rate technical group estimates the flow to be "right now, the mid-30s - I think is the most probable - and as high as 60."
And he stressed the first of two relief wells, seen as the only way to permanently cap the spill, was closing in on the original well. "The first relief well is now 10,677 feet [3,235 metres] below the sea floor [and] starting to close in on the well," Mr Allen said, without providing a time frame for when it would be completed. On Thursday, Mr Allen said engineers were ahead of their mid-August target date for completing the drilling of the first relief well.
* Agence France-Presse