BP needs 48 hours to see impact of US oil spill cap: CEO
British energy giant BP said Friday it would be about 48 hours before it could say how much oil was being captured by a cap placed over a ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico.
Chief Executive Tony Hayward said in a call with investors that he could not say how much the spill would cost the firm, but added the price would be "severe."
Hayward also defended his own position, which has come under increasing scrutiny with the company's response to the crisis, saying he was "so far unscathed."
BP placed a cap over a ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico Friday, its latest effort to curb a leak which has so far pumped at least 20 million gallons of crude oil into the area, with serious environmental consequences.
The group's chief operating officer, Doug Suttles, said earlier he was "pretty confident this is going to work".
Hayward added: "Everyone at BP is heartbroken by this event, by the loss of life and by the damage to the environment and to the livelihoods of the people of the Gulf Coast."
"It should not have happened and we are bound and determined to learn every lesson to try and ensure it never happens again."
He said that it would take "48 hours for assessing how much oil and gas" had been stopped from leaking out by the cap.
Although it was impossible to predict the precise cost, it would be "severe," Hayward added. Some estimates suggest the final bill for the clean-up could exceed 10 billion dollars.
"The financial consequences of this incident will undoubtedly be severe but BP is a strong company and we have weathered many storms before," he said.
Hayward, who took over the helm of BP in 2007, also defended his own position.
US President Barack Obama is among those to have criticised BP, saying: "What I haven't seen as much as I'd like is the kind of rapid response" from the firm.
Hayward quoted the traditional children's nursery rhyme "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" in defending his position.
"I personally think it's right that I should be the lightning rod because it allows everyone else to get on with their jobs," he added. "I've got a pretty thick kevlar jacket."
Hayward added that the company, with major interests in the Gulf and United States as a whole, intended to be a player in the country for the long-term.
"We will stand by our obligations," he said. "We will halt this spill and put right the damage that has been done. We will rebuild the confidence of the American people and the world in BP."
© 2010 AFP