TODAY.AZ / Business

BP chiefs promise to clean up operation

27 July 2006 [02:21] - TODAY.AZ
The top executives of BP, chastened by a string of safety, environmental and legal problems in their American operations, pledged Wednesday to restore credibility by bringing in outside experts, being more transparent and investing more heavily in safety and maintenance.

John Browne, the chief executive of BP, and Robert Malone, the newly appointed chairman of BP America, said during an interview by phone from New York that an oil spill in Alaska, an explosion last summer at the company's Texas City, Texas, refinery and violations by BP traders in the propane business, were not related to each other but would have to be addressed.

"We have to get the priorities right, and job one is to get to these things that have happened, get them fixed and get them sorted out," he said. "We don't just sort them out on the surface, we get them fixed deeply."

BP announced in London on Monday that it would add $1 billion to the $6 billion it had previously planned to spend over the next four years to improve safety at U.S. refineries and to repair pipelines in Alaska.

The company is also establishing an advisory board of seven experts, four from outside the company, to review its safety position.

Some of that committee's findings will be made public, Browne said. "We will make sure that things are transparent, to the level of relevance, salience and interest that is appropriate."

The company has previously made public the work of advisory committees concerning Indonesia and concerning a pipeline running from Baku, in Azerbaijan, to Ceyhan, in Turkey.

BP spilled thousands of barrels of crude oil over two acres, or less than a hectare, of tundra in March of this year, the largest oil spill on the North Slope. This summer the company is building some bypass pipelines, and will forego production of about 40,000 barrels a day, of which 11,000 barrels is BP's share, for as long as a month. BP's revenue losses alone could reach $24 million.

A year earlier, a blast at BP's Texas City refinery killed 15 workers, many of them in office trailers that had been set up for a maintenance project. The blast injured more than 180 people, and BP was fined $21.3 million.

"Texas City was a tragedy that we will remember forever," Browne said.

In June, American regulators and prosecutors filed complaints about a propane price-fixing scheme. Browne said that he would not comment on whether any laws had been broken, but added: "The traders said words that broke our values."

"This is not good stuff," Browne said. "We have to take firm action."



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