No retreat from Gulf for BP

HOUSTON – BP’s massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill has not shaken the oil-and-gas giant’s plan to continue development in the region, CEO Bob Dudley said Wednesday.

“Despite the events of 2010 we remain incredibly committed to the Gulf of Mexico,” he said at a major energy conference here.

The London-based company has shed billions of dollars worth of assets in the Gulf as part of its broader assets sales to help cover costs from the spill.

But Dudley noted that BP nonetheless intends to spend $4 billion annually over the next 10 years in the Gulf.

“It is a massive part of our portfolio,” he said at the IHS CERAWeek energy conference here.

Dudley said that one key focus of BP’s plans are four big production “hubs” the company operates: Thunder Horse, Atlantis, Mad Dog and Na Kika.

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Dudley also noted that BP is the largest deepwater leaseholder in the Gulf and has seven deepwater rigs operating.

He spoke amid BP’s ongoing civil trial in New Orleans, which is expected to lead to billions of dollars in fines over the spill. BP agreed to a $4 billion criminal settlement with the Justice Department last year.

Dudley declined to specifically address the civil charges.

“We are vigorously defending the company, but we are determined to make our case in the courtroom and not in the press,” Dudley said.

BP has spent over $24 billion on spill response, clean-up, restoration, and claims paid to people, businesses and governments, he said. The company has “spent or provisioned” over $40 billion, Dudley said.

The spill, which dumped m0re than 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf over several months, prompted a temporary federal freeze on all deepwater Gulf drilling and the overhaul of federal drilling rules and oversight.

Dudley said BP has “learned from the accident” and is meeting its pledge to emerge a “safer, stronger, more sustainable company.”

The company is working “systematically” on safety and its record is improving, he said.

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