BP chief calls failure of blowout preventer ‘unprecedented’

“To get to this point you have had to breach multiple safety system and then have the ultimate device fail,” he added.

The comment comes as BP is facing questions about the adequacy of its safety planning in the wake of the rig explosion that created the spill, which is threatening to create massive harm along ecologically sensitive coastlines.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) has already pressed rig owner Transocean and BP, which had leased the rig, for information about inspections of the failsafe device.

Hayward reiterated that the company is moving on three fronts to contain the leak. It still hopes to deploy the blowout preventer using remotely-controlled submarines.

BP also plans to try and deploy a containment dome that would channel the oil to the surface in a way that can be controlled. The company plans to have it at the site by next weekend.

“It has never been done in 5,000 feet of water. This is another technology challenge, but it is one we are pursuing aggressively,” he said.

The company has also begun drilling a so-called relief well to prevent the uncontrolled leak, he said. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar yesterday said that option could take up to 90 days to stop the oil release.

Hayward said the company is prepared to pay all “legitimate” claims stemming from damage the spill is causing. “We have made it clear that all legitimate clams that are made, we will be good for,” he said, and also noted that small claims are being paid “instantly.”