Gulf spill fallout not impeding growth plans, BP exec says

The continuing uncertainty over BP’s remaining liabilities from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill isn’t a major influence on the individual exploration and production projects it is choosing to do around the world, even in the face of cost inflation for materials and services, a company executive says.

In a roundtable discussion with a small group of reporters at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, BP upstream chief Lamar McKay, who used to run the company’s U.S. operations, acknowledged Monday that it will “take some time” to get the oil spill obligations off the books.

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But, he said for now the company is satisfied that with its existing portfolio, it has ample room for growth and isn’t afraid to take risks despite the uncertainty.

“I wouldn’t say it has influenced any individual project,” McKay said of the Macondo well blowout off the coast of Louisiana.

The worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history did, however, make the company rethink and overhaul its safety procedures. When BP does drill a new well, or explore in deeper waters, it has learned to be even more careful, he said.

“We balance the portfolio on what we think is the ability to execute and the capital intensity the projects require,” McKay said. “As far as the Macondo incident, it has helped us in identifying risk.”

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McKay said he is enjoying his new job, which keeps him based in London and not Houston, out of the day-to-day media glare of the still unfolding oil spill matters.

McKay testified during the first phase of a civil trial over the disaster in federal court in New Orleans. BP faces the prospect of billions of dollars in further fines, penalties and damages, depending on the outcome of the trial. The second phase of the trial is set to begin in September.

Asked if he enjoyed his time on the stand, McKay joked, “What do you think? Would you?”