As CEO Hayward remade BP, safety, cost drives clashed

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The budget squeeze on one of the British oil giant’s most challenging projects underscores a tension at the heart of BP under Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward.

Until the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf, Mr. Hayward repeatedly said he was slaying two dragons at once: safety lapses that led to major accidents, including a deadly 2005 Texas refinery explosion; and bloated costs that left BP lagging rivals Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Exxon Mobil Corp.

A Wall Street Journal examination of internal BP documents, legal filings, official investigations and reports by federal inspectors, as well as interviews with regulators, shows a record that doesn’t always match Mr. Hayward’s reports of safety improvements.

Since Mr. Hayward took over, BP has continued to spar with regulators over the same issues that got it into trouble before his tenure as CEO. Some of its refineries still get poor marks for safety. And four years after one of Alaska’s worst oil spills, BPs pipelines there have continued to leak.

“They claim to be very much focused on safety, I think sincerely,” says Jordan Barab, deputy assistant secretary at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “But somehow their sincerity and their programs don’t always get translated well into the refinery floor.”

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