BP’s U.S. boss named chief executive of upstream segment

Capping a tumultuous two weeks for the company, BP said Friday that the head of its U.S. operations will take responsibility for all of its upstream businesses.

Lamar McKay will assume the new role Jan. 1.

McKay, 53, has been based in Houston as president and chairman of BP America since 2009. He also has overseen BP’s Gulf Coast restoration work following the 2010 blowout of its Macondo well, which destroyed the Deepwater Horizon, killed 11 workers and led to the spill of almost 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

He will be based in London and will report directly to BP CEO Bob Dudley.

A company spokesman said McKay was not available for interviews Friday.

The announcement came eight days after the British oil giant agreed to settle manslaughter, obstruction and securities charges for $4.5 billion in connection with the Macondo blowout and resulting oil spill.

Three current or former employees also face criminal charges related to the disaster. They will be in court next week.

But BP still faces billions of dollars in civil and environmental penalties, as well as damage claims by coastal residents who say they were harmed by the spill.

McKay took a leading role as one of the faces of the company after the spill, testifying before Congress and appearing at news conferences along the Gulf Coast to explain BP’s efforts to cap the well and restore the environment.

Dudley was named CEO several months after the April 20, 2010, blowout and promised a new emphasis on safety.

A BP board member and the first American to be named to the company’s top job, he followed Tony Hayward, whose perceived missteps in the United States following the  accident contributed to a sense that the company needed to repair its image.

In addition to Dudley’s promise that he would focus on a new culture of safety, the company said it would set aside $32.2 billion for Gulf oil spill costs and would sell assets to help pay those bills.

By last month, when its Texas City refinery sold to Marathon Petroleum for $2.5 billion, BP had sold $35 billion in assets, close to its goal of shedding $38 billion in assets by the end of 2013.

But Dudley also began a reorganization of the company soon after he took over, creating upstream divisions for exploration, development and production, along with a strategy and integration team.

McKay, who already is a member of BP’s executive management team, will take over direction for all of those divisions, whose managers previously reported directly to Dudley.

“Lamar is an outstanding leader, with a proven record of strong operational effectiveness and strategic success,” Dudley said in a statement. “His leadership of BP America over the past three years has been exemplary, during a most difficult period for our company. His long and deep experience in the upstream, and of the U.S. and Russia, will be invaluable as we deliver our upstream strategy worldwide.”

>The company said it will name McKay’s successor later.

Although major integrated oil companies Marathon Oil Corp. and ConocoPhillips have spun off their downstream businesses in recent years, BP spokesman Robert Wine denied in an email that Friday’s announcement is intended to position the company for a similar maneuver.

“The suggestions of splitting the company (and spinning off downstream) has come up time and again over the years,” he wrote. “We don’t believe that’s the right thing to do for BP.”

Iain Conn remains as chief executive of refining and marketing, Wine said.

McKay, a petroleum engineer by training, is a 32-year BP veteran who has worked around the world. He worked on the company’s joint venture in Russia, among other assignments, and was named president and chairman of BP America almost four years after the 2005 refinery explosion in Texas City, which killed 15 people.

Safety was also an issue then, and McKay said at the time that he was committed to making sure changes to BP’s corporate culture became permanent.

“It’s never done, but I’m proud of how far we’ve come,” McKay said in an interview in January 2009.