BP launches PR fightback over oil spill

Monday, May 24, 2010
By Paul Martin

25 May 2010

LONDON: Under-fire oil giant BP launched a public relations fightback on Monday over the Gulf of Mexico rig spill, pledging up to 500 million dollars to study the impact and taking out major newspaper ads.

The twin moves came as BP faced mounting pressure to check the massive oil leak, after the US government threatened to take over the response to the month-old disaster.

A 10-year research programme would study topics including how oil and the chemicals used to disperse it were affected by ocean currents, and how they were dispersed in the sea and on shore.

“BP has made a commitment to doing everything we can to lessen the impact of this tragic incident on the people and environment of the Gulf Coast,” BP chief executive Tony Hayward said, announcing the 405-million-euro pledge.

“We must make every effort to understand that impact. This will be a key part of the process of restoration, and for improving the industry response capability for the future,” he added.

The research programme would also examine how accidental oil spills compare to natural seepage from the seabed, whether chemicals used to disperse the oil helped or hindered biodegradation, and what can be done to improve technology.

The BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers, and sank two days later. Ever since, hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil, perhaps even millions, have spewed each day into the sea, threatening marine and shore-based wildlife, fishing industries and tourism.

In the United States, BP – struggling to convince Americans it can be trusted to stop and clean up the oil spill – has started taking out ads in major US newspapers.

First appearing in The New York Times and then again in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today on Monday, the full-page ad is headlined in bold “Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Response. What we’re doing. How to get more information.”

Below BP tries to reassure readers it is doing everything possible to stem a slick that is now washing up on Louisiana’s shores, providing ugly pictures of oiled marshlands and rare birds that are a publicity nightmare.

“Since the tragic accident on the Transocean Deepwater Horizon rig first occurred, we have been committed to doing everything possible to stop the flow of oil at the seabed and keep it away from the shore,” the ad says.

“BP has taken full responsibility for dealing with the spill. We are determined to do everything we can to minimise any impact. We will honour all legitimate claims.”

BP’s funding pledge statement said it already has ongoing marine research programmes in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Building on these, BP will appoint an independent advisory panel to construct the long term research program. Where appropriate, the studies may be coordinated with the ongoing natural resources damages assessment,” it said.

Initially a grant to Louisiana State University (LSU) will help kick start the work, BP said.

“LSU has a significant amount of experience in dealing with the oil and gas industry and deep knowledge pertaining to the Gulf of Mexico,” said Professor Christopher d’Elia, dean of LSU’s School of the Coast and Environment.

“The first part of the programme is about obtaining and analyzing samples and assessing immediate impacts. Other areas of importance will emerge as researchers become engaged and the potential impacts from the spill are better understood,” said d’Elia, cited by BP. – AFP/de

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