America Speaks to BP

Uploaded by citizentube on 01.07.2010

SUAREZ: Hello, I'm Ray Suarez with the PBS NewsHour here at the BP headquarters in Houston,
Texas. We're with the President and CEO of BP's Gulf Coast Restoration Organization,
Bob Dudley. He's agreed to answer the questions of the American people. Our colleagues at
Google and YouTube have been collecting video and text questions for the past 24 hours.
Mr. Dudley, thanks for joining us. >> DUDLEY: Thank you, Ray.
>> SUAREZ: Well, when we put out the call for questions, you might have guessed we got
thousands of responses. There's a lot of curiosity about the state of play in the Gulf. We got
video, we got text, and we got a lot of people who just came to the site to bolster certain
questions that they wanted to be sure would be asked, and selecting one that's sort of
representative from the Gulf, let's go first to Kirk from Houma, Louisiana.
>> CHERAMIE: Mr. Dudley, my name is Kirk Cheramie. I'm a member of the United Houma Nation, which
is the state's largest Indian tribe in the state of Louisiana. We have heard that you
are going to make everyone whole. We have 6,000 families in the United Houma Nation
that are now out of work because of this spill. Today, I was on Grand Isle on the beach, and
normally on the Fourth of July week like this, we would have a thousand people in the area
that we were. There was not a single person on the beach today. How are you gonna make
everyone whole? And at what point do you close the checkbook?
>> DUDLEY: So, Kirk, I was down in Grand Isle about two weeks ago, and I saw the oil on
the beaches, and I saw it behind Grand Terre Island, and went out to Grand Bess and saw
the oil in the marshes where the pelican rookeries were. I see the devastation that's down there.
Uh, we're going to make good on the claims from individuals and businesses down there.
Anyone who has been impacted like you've said should go to the claims offices immediately.
File the claims that we're--just have some documentation for it. We're writing the checks.
We've written as of this morning $138 million of checks. So we are gonna make good for it.
We put aside $20 billion in a escrow account that will be used to pay claims, not only
just for now, but for as long as the impact is there on your businesses. And that will
be not only after we shut the well off, but this clean up is going to take some time.
So, it's not a one-time claim. It's claims that will go through the months where your
businesses are impacted. We also realize there's a seasonality of business down there, and
the summer is when-- That's where a lot of the earnings come from, and we're going to
take that into account and try to make people whole. We're there for the long term. There's
no attempt to cap this. We haven't capped the well yet. And in fact, it's hard to talk
about a limit to claims certainly before we continue to--to have this spill in the Gulf.
>> SUAREZ: You know those claims can come from an almost unimaginable range of people.
And Kirk made the reference to "When does BP close the checkbook?" You know, there are
places in Florida that haven't even seen oil yet, but they've seen significant drop-offs
in their business because of the anticipation that the spill is going to affect it. If you're
a motel owner, can you say to BP, "Hey, last year I had 75, 85% of my rooms full. This
year, I had 20%. I think it's the oil spill." >> DUDLEY: If you can demonstrate cancellations,
there'll be a track record and a trend line there. Take that into the claims sessions--centers
around the coast. We've got 33 of those claims centers around the coast. We're transitioning
the claims process to Ken Feinberg, who's one of the better--better-known, in fact the
best known independent oversight of our claims process. He's coming in with a rigor and formulas
of how these things are calculated. It's a little bit beyond our capability to maintain
this because we need that sort of expertise. He'll be looking at that. He'll make those
determinations. But that's the intent, is to make sure that businesses who have been
impacted are reimbursed. >> SUAREZ: Lou writes from Pensacola, Florida,
"BP can promise the moon, but in the end, file bankruptcy and skip out on its unpaid
obligations. Is BP willing to immediately transfer all the cleanup money, including
what it receives from catastrophe insurance carriers, to the government now?"
>> DUDLEY: Lou, I don't think anybody wants or expects us to do that. BP is a very strong
company in terms of its cash flow. It needs to have that strength to be able fund these
claims, and we're putting aside $20 billion over four years. We're gonna securitize that
with assets in North America. It--it can still be increased in the future. One of the things
that is important-- and the President said it two weeks ago--it is important to have
a strong and viable BP. We need to have some certainty for our investments so that we can
continue to generate the cash that will actually allow us to make good on our obligations and
commitments and claims, and I think that's the better way to approach it.
>> SUAREZ: But as you mentioned, the oil is still flowing, so your obligations are increasing
even as we're sitting here talking to each other. Lou's trying to anticipate a moment
where it just becomes too much for the company to bear.
>> DUDLEY: Well, I think--I believe strongly that that's not going to happen. I believe
that we have--given the engineering talent that we have working on it--you're here in
the center today, the hundred different companies that are working here around the clock, we
will find a way to shut this well off, and then we will continue to devote all the resources
necessary through the unified command, with the Coast Guard and the government officials,
to clean up the Gulf and restore it to the way it was. And having a strong BP is very
important for us to be able to do that, and it will take years.
>> SUAREZ: Sam writes from Chicago, "Gulf ecology is surely altered for decades, the
effects of which will prove difficult to measure and contentious. What will BP's guidelines
be? How will money be appropriated? When will something be 'caused by the spill' versus
not? 'Damaged' versus 'altered'?" >> DUDLEY: I'd say to Sam that we've got a
lot to learn from this incident. There has never before been this volume of dispersant
that's put in the water. That dispersant is doing its job, and that is breaking up the
oil and allowing the bacteria to eat it. There's no question that there needs to be baseline
measurement of the Gulf now, which has been going on, and we're funding a $500 million
science program. It will be independent science so that we can continue to measure and learn
from it and understand what's happening in the Gulf. And if those programs show that
there are--there are alterations to things, that's why we're committing an organization
that was put in place last week called the Gulf Coast Restoration Organization. I'll
be heading that up. This is gonna be a long-term commitment to doing what we need to restore
the Gulf, measure it, understand it, science. And I think those learnings will not just
be for the Gulf of Mexico. It's gonna be for the globe. It's gonna change the oil industry
forever. Safety standards need to be understood and increased. We need to take apart the accident,
find out what really happened. This is not only a Gulf of Mexico event. This is a game
changing event for the oil and gas industry. >> SUAREZ: We'll go back Houma, Louisiana
now to Michael. >> DARDAR: Mr. Dudley, my name is Michael
Dardar. I'm the Vice Principal Chief of the United Houma Nation. I have seen the cleanup
effort in a variety of our communities. I've been down to the end of South Pass, the mouth
of the Mississippi. I've been in places like Bay Baptiste. I've been on the beach at Port
Fourchon. And what I've seen so far is a very disorganized cleanup effort. I've seen miles
of unattended boom. I've seen miles of boom washed up on the bank with no one around.
I've seen pockets of oil in the marsh with no one there to clean it up. My question is,
how are you gonna make this cleanup effort more proactive? How are you going to change
the dynamics on the ground and make this effort more effective? Thank you.
>> DUDLEY: I'd say to Michael that the cleanup effort has not been perfect. We have had to
respond and allocate resources from Louisiana all the way across to Florida, and we've had
to do that sometimes very quickly. There's been gaps in the defenses, and you almost
have to think about this as an invasion of oil to make sure that you're ready for it.
We've had some--some devastating pictures, particularly in Louisiana, of the oil that's
got into the marshes. The beaches are easier to clean. The marshes particularly are very
sensitive. They take a long time. You flush them. We even have crews out there that clean
blades of grass. But it's something you have to be very, very careful about. We, uh, we
see boom that gets washed up. If it's out there, the tides comes. The storm that we're
having actually today with Hurricane Alex has raised high levels of waves all across
the Gulf. It's disrupting the booms. We're gonna have to go back and replace those booms.
We been working with the Coast Guard, who is really the command center for the spill
response, which we work with, where we're gonna bring in--go from 500 to 900 skimmers.
We need--we have this--We have this issue with oil that during the evening it moves,
and we think we know where it is in the evening, and often at dawn, it's in a different place,
sometimes surprises us. We also have aerial overflights to send the coordinates for where
the oil is. Those coordinates are then sent to skimmers, and they get out there and they
can't find it. Sometimes they can be only 400 yards away. So we're gonna up the aerial
surveillance of these. We're gonna bring in even airships or blimps in parts of the Gulf
so they can actually direct the ships. We're learning as we go. It hasn't been perfect,
or you wouldn't see sights like that. But the effort has really doubled in the last
month. >> SUAREZ: Is there a system? I mean, you
describe getting airships up in the air, but an intelligent system, a network, so that
if the direction of the winds and the water change and oil comes to a new spot on that
very long coastline, somebody here, somebody in your shop, finds out about it in good time?
>> DUDLEY: So there's a nerve center, a command center. It's called the Unified Command, which
is really commanded by the Coast Guard, where BP employees are there as well. There's representatives
of NOAH and government agencies in Robert, Louisiana. It was just recently moved to downtown
New Orleans. There's command centers in Houma and in Mobile, Alabama. And then there's what
we're now transitioning to, are forward operating bases using the military terminology that
will now be in each of the parishes and in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. And we're
setting up this week an air center out of Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida to be able
to put that real-time oversight to improve what we've been doing. There's a lot of it
that has been captured, skimmed, burned, collected, but it's these stringers of oil, the ones
like you saw in Louisiana there, that are so devastating. This oil spill is not like
a giant pool of oil. It tends to break up anywhere between ten yards wide and 1,000
yards long, to 50 yards wide and 1,000 yards long. And then they come in, they slip through
the defenses, and they plow into a beach. At worst, they get into the back bays, and
those are the ones that now we're redoubling efforts to try to prevent.
>> SUAREZ: You mentioned Hurricane Alex. Let's talk a little bit more about that, because
just a few yards away from where we're sitting, there's a torrential rain coming down, part
of the arms of this storm that came ashore last night. How did it affect your operations
and how long will it take to get things back to where they were before Alex came into the
Gulf? >> DUDLEY: Well, it's affected it in three
ways. One, it sharpened immediately. As soon as that storm formed and we saw it coming
through the Southern Caribbean, we put in place a hurricane preparedness system all
the way across the Gulf, from Florida over, where we were gonna move the boom, where the
buses were gonna move out the people. The people have to--the cleanup people actually
have to get out before the local government for their own evacuation plans. And it gave
us an early precision drill, if you will, around the Gulf, on the beaches. In terms
of the storm itself, it has sent 8 to 12-foot waves that have come up from the southeast
to the northwest, right through the area where the operations are and the oil. So it has
brought in oil, unfortunately, from the panhandle of Florida to Louisiana right now at a higher
rate than it has been over the last few days. The waves do not allow us to skim, the booms
are ineffective, and the dispersing can't be laid down. So we're waiting till Saturday,
when the waves come down, and we're gonna be ready to be back out on the water. Crews
have been working in the evening and at night right now, through these three days, to clean
the oil on the beaches. The third area it's affected is our offshore containment operations,
'cause we're trying to put in place now a third flow path for the oil on the subsea,
5,000 feet below, and we need calmer water conditions to be able to keep that equipment
in place. So there's a bit of a delay on that, and I'm hopeful that by around the 8th of
July, we'll have that in place. >> SUAREZ: Both government and BP sources
were saying that we were on the verge of a new phase in the collection. What has this
postponed? >> DUDLEY: Well, today we're producing--uh,
not produc--we're collecting roughly 23,000 to 25,000 barrels a day out of two flow paths.
This would be a third flow path that can add another 20,000 barrels a day. I believe that
we'll collect the majority of the oil. We are looking at a longer term containment,
which would require us possibly to, uh--to--to-- well, we're planning to bring in larger ships
that have something called floating-- flexible floating risers that will allow a quick disconnect,
should a hurricane come, to allow a ship to disconnect quickly and get back on-stream
in a matter of days. Right now, the system we have out there requires us to move off
of station a number of days before a storm gets close. Then we have to come back and
reestablish it. So we want to get something that minimizes the damage during a storm.
That's my biggest worry--the storms. >> SUAREZ: After your boss, Tony Hayward,
testified to Congress, it was announced that you are now in charge of the response by BP.
What's changed? There's this new entity called the Gulf Coast Restoration Organization. Do
you still report to Tony Hayward? Who do you work for?
>> DUDLEY: Well, I'm on the board of BP, and I do report to Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP.
The original intent was to set this organization up at the time that the well was killed. And
then we would set up a long-term restoration organization. What's changed is, after the
meeting at the White House, where we agreed that we would set up the escrow fund, put
the assets aside, begin to manage the claims process over to the independent claims expert
Ken Feinberg, those activities required a lot of attention. And if anything, everyone
should read it as, this organization is a signal to America the long-term intent of
BP to make sure it meets its commitments for many years. It will put a lot of attention
on making sure that we get the resources in to the Unified Command, with the Coast Guard.
That Unified Command is directed by the Coast Guard. We have people there, and we're, of
course, paying for that activity. And this should be a--give people comfort that this
is not a temporary activity for BP. >> SUAREZ: Well, you talk about the relationship
with the federal government. Who tells who what to do? Do you tell them what you're doing?
Or do you ask them what ought to be done next? >> DUDLEY: So we make a series of recommendations,
whether it's on the subsea or working with the booms in the spill response. The subsea
is obviously an area where BP has a lot of expertise. However, Secretary Chu of the Department
of Energy, uh, Secretary Salazar from the Interior, uh, Lisa Jackson, uh, the National
Labs, Los Alamos, uh, Lawrence Livermore, and others are all here in Houston and review
every decision. We have a whole series of engineering options. We review them in great
detail, and only after we have a sort of agreement and their approval do we go forward with significant
activities on the subsea. On the spill response, this is actually not a spill. It's a leak.
It's an ongoing leak. So we're plowing new ground all the time here, and this is what's
gonna change the way the world looks at these leaks and spills in terms of response. But
the Coast Guard does have a lot of experience in the logistics work and the movement of
equipment and materials, and that, combined with BP, I think, is--is, uh--it's not perfect,
but it's a good cooperation and combination of skills. They do make the decisions on where
we allocate the resources. >> SUAREZ: Let's go back to our online audience.
Jen writes from Eugene, Oregon, "Why are BP staff getting a heads-up when U.S. government
officials are going to show up? So that BP can roll out additional cleanup workers to
the hardest-hit areas, only to remove them when the officials leave?" Is that happening?
>> DUDLEY: Uh, no, it's not. And I saw that report about the President's visit. I actually
looked into it myself and said, "What was the schedule? We're worked through." Of course,
there's 40,000 people working on the Gulf Coast on the spill. There's a lot of subcontractors
that work for us. And their crews and movements around are set up days in advance. I actually
checked into that to see if that was somehow some temporary peace. It was not. The crews
that were, when they were scheduled, they didn't really even know that the President
was coming. He came down on relatively short notice. It may have looked like that because,
uh, they don't work right up until dark. There is a period of time where the beach workers
work, and they left later after he left that day. But there's no attempt at all to manipulate
or put a show on for people. If there was, I mean, we were failing miserably. We have
lots of people that visit, and they see sometimes where there's these gaps. And, uh, we need
to have people out there all the time, but it's a very large area and it's not gonna
be perfect. >> SUAREZ: Continuing on the subject of response
workers, Brianna from Louisiana. >> CASSIDY: Hi, my name's Ginger Cassidy,
and I've been down here on the Gulf for the past week and been talking to a lot of locals
who are not being employed right now who have asked for jobs to be employed by BP. People
have lost their jobs from the oil spill, and my question to you is, when are you guys gonna
start employing locals here in the area? >> SUAREZ: Ginger Cassidy with Rainforest
Action Network. >> DUDLEY: So Brianna, we-- it is our objective
and policy to hire as many local people as we can. We've put that across all the states,
whether it's Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana. We've gone back in. We've looked
at the vessels of opportunity programs, which is where we hire local boats. We've gone through
to make sure that subcontractors weren't bringing in boats from out of the state or sometimes
out of counties. We've even gone down to the local level to say, what is local for a town
such as Venice? It doesn't mean someone coming from another part of Louisiana. It means really
local. We put a lot of emphasis on there. There is a limit to the number of people that
we can employ, of course, because they need to be trained, they need to be out there doing
some specialized work. I've heard these issues. I've been down to Houma, I've been down to
Venice, I've been down to Grand Isle. I hear this. We keep putting strong emphasis and
pressure on our subcontractors to make sure they are local people that are hired. We can
do better, but I take your point. I'll go back and continue to push on it.
>> SUAREZ: Well, how does this system work if you are a ready pair of hands and you want
to get involved and perhaps your own work his been compromised by this disaster, who
do you tell? Who do you ask? How do you get into the system?
>> DUDLEY: So there's--People call them ads, but there's a set of newspaper ads that we've
been running, and we've been doing it in local papers as well with phone numbers. So there's
a Hotmail--Hotmail. Hotline to report oil. There's a hotline to make claims, and there's
a hotline for information for exactly that. And so we direct people to either the subcontractors
or ourselves. We've made it clear that we don't want people migrating from other parts
of the country to come down and work on the spill, which was in the early days was an
issue. >> SUAREZ: We've already discussed compensating
people, compensating their livelihoods, making up for economic losses. Ashley Jay writes
from New York about the region itself, the ecosystem. "While BP has set up a compensatory
fund of $20 billion for the people, the Gulf region itself remains unaddressed. Will BP
step up and allocate resources toward the setting up of marine reserves and rehabilitation
facilities going forward?" >> DUDLEY: So in late May, we announced a
$500 million fund that we will set up that is to do the science. And one of the things
that that fund will do is look at recommendations for setting up rehabilitation activities.
I think it also will be a fund that will work to increase the capability of the research
institutes around The Gulf Coast, the universities themselves. We want to make The Gulf and the
economy stronger over time as a result of the spill. I know it doesn't feel that way
today. That's probably the last thing people are thinking of making it even better, but
that's what these funds are gonna be set up to do. We're gonna be administering them independently.
We'll have boards and experts look at it. We will undoubtedly go through a process of:
Where do you prioritize? Which states? All the states affected have to benefit from this.
We're gonna work with the wildlife institutes. I think--I think the world will change along
The Gulf obviously detrimentally for a while as a result of the spill, but longer term
we want to make it a stronger ecosystem for not only the science, the response, the protection
mechanism longer term. >> SUAREZ: There are still differences of
opinion, differences in what's being reported about the extent of the damage. Will it take
sometime to even know how bad things are? When crude sits on the bottom, which there
are widespread reports of that being the case now, it basically suffocates the ocean floor
and kills everything that depends on a healthy ocean floor to live in other parts of the
chain. >> DUDLEY: So I've just read the NOAH reports
and the joint committees of the government-- the NOAH, Department of Energy, and one other--to
look at some of these reports of the plume and the measurements right now. What they're
seeing is a reduction in oxygen levels that are still above acceptable levels in parts
of where the oil moves up, and that's a symptom of the bacteria eating the oil, and the bacteria
actually eats the dispersant as well. It does reduce the oxygen levels. That will be temporary.
In terms of this creating those dead zones, I'm not aware of data that shows that, but
that is what the baselining data that's--and the data collection now is gonna show. We're
not gonna try to hide anything. Everything we're doing, we want to post it. In fact I
think we're posting all this data on the websites. I know that people don't trust oil companies.
It's been that way for as long as I've worked in the industry. It's a particularly American
phenomenon in many ways. We've tried to be as open as we can. People have talked about
us holding back on the rate data. We simply don't know some of this data. We're working
with the government to do it. There's no attempt to hold back anything on this. And if the
studies show that that kind of damage has been done to The Gulf, I assure you we will
meet our commitments to do what we need to restore it over time.
>> SUAREZ: Lane writes from San Francisco, "Have all of the blowout preventers associated
with BP's other deepwater operations been tested since the big spill? Did they all pass?
And how regularly will they be tested in the future to ensure their functionality when
they absolutely have to work?" >> DUDLEY: Well, Lane is right, these things
have to work. This is the last line of defense, and there's seven different barriers in this.
And for whatever reason, this blowout preventer failed. We, and I imagine like many in the
industry but certainly BP, went worldwide looking at all of the blowout preventers that
we had in activity and went way beyond that, looked at our production facilities and all
kinds of safety conditions again on all of our facilities around the world. I imagine
other oil companies will have done the same thing. This is a very unusual incident, this
blowout preventer system to fail. It's about four stories high, 400 tons. The MMS, although
they've widely been criticized, actually these pieces of equipment are tested every 14 days
in the U.S. This is a very tragic and yet not well understood accident.
>> SUAREZ: Do you have to reexamine the engineering and the original assumptions that were made
when these things were put in? Maybe in very deep water where the water pressures are tremendous
they just work differently from in shallower places where you do business and extract petroleum.
>> DUDLEY: Well, we've been drilling in The Gulf of Mexico in the deep water for 20 years
now, so--and this is 5,000 feet of water. There's actually some wells that are drilled
even deeper, 10,000 feet of water. We've just never seen an accident like this. These have
always functioned before, and the technology's gotten better and better and better over time.
However, we now know that something happened, something didn't work. We need to understand
why. We need to then make sure it never happens anywhere ever again. I think this is gonna
fundamentally change the offshore oil industry, as it should. We'll eventually take this off
the ground. It'll be a piece of evidence actually in what will be investigations by The Marine
Board to understand the failure mechanisms. I believe that the industry will have no choice
except to go through, reengineer these to make them more failsafe. We have the, you
know, with airplanes, with nuclear power plants we have a standard of safety which people
regard as failsafe, as they need to be. We've just had an event now that is gonna make us
reevaluate the oil and gas industry globally, no question in my mind.
>> SUAREZ: You had to make--Your company had to make certain assurances to The United States
before it was able to extract oil from certain places. And while the references to walruses
and sea otters got a lot of attention, what should have gotten more attention probably
is the fact that you were assuring The United States that if there was a leak of even greater
magnitude than is underway now, you would be able to handle it, you'd be able to get
that oil up off the surface. Now you're struggling 70-plus days in to handle even one quarter
of the amount that you had said in those filings that you could. What happened?
>> DUDLEY: Well, like an oil spill, say you have a tanker or a ship that has a spill,
it's a finite amount, could be a very, very large amount, and you respond. What's different
about this event and any event that's ever happened is it's a continuous flow, and no
one anticipated that. None of the regulations anywhere in the world anticipate that. No
one--Because the reason is the blowout preventers, you could have had a terrible, tragic accident
like we had with a loss of control of the well, terrible tragic accident, with a fire
and the rig sank. There are controls on the rig where workers can just hit a button and
the blowout preventers are to close. Then if the rig becomes disconnected, there's systems
in place that it closes. Then if that doesn't work-- the unthinkable, that doesn't work--you
send down the robots, the remote-operated vehicles, and you manually activate valves
to close. That didn't work. So the number of failures here--and we need to understand
why--was, I think, not contemplated by anybody. >> SUAREZ: Let's go back to our questions
from our online visitors. >> GREEN: My question to you is do you think
that this could've happened to any company at any offshore oil exploratory rig? Or was
there something unusual going on here? And most importantly, what I wanna know is do
you think that deepwater offshore drilling can ever really be safe? And when I say safe,
I mean for your workers and I mean for the environment. 'Cause to me it seems like it
can't. Thank you for your time. >> SUAREZ: Hank in Missoula, Montana.
>> DUDLEY: Yeah, Hank raises a good--a good point. I think that what we've learned on
this incident is only part of what we're gonna learn through this investigation. It needs
to be taken apart forensically, what happened in terms of equipment failures, judgment of
people. There has been a fairly quick, I would say, rush to judgment, but it feels that way
that everything is wrong with what BP has done here and I think the facts are gonna
emerge that this is a complex accident with multiple stages. Some will be decisions that
were made by very, very experienced people. Some will be equipments will have failed.
We need to understand that fully before we determine that. I believe that offshore deepwater
oil and gas, is something that it's a very tough choice that societies have to make,
because the world does depend on energy and oil. Over time, there will be a transition
from hydrocarbons, whether that's oil and gas or coal, to a lower-carbon economy, but
it's gonna take time and a nation like the United States has to make a choice. Can it
do this safely until we further engineer and make them even safer and safer? The fact that
we had been drilling for 20 years in the Gulf of Mexico without an accident and BP's safety
record in the Gulf of Mexico has been very good, as one example, as have other companies,
says that I believe the United States will need to go back to a period of producing oil
and gas in the deep water. >> SUAREZ: But I think Hank reflects a lot
of the people who wrote in and sent in videos over the last day. They're sort of surprised
that we're still here on day 72, 73. That you guys, at some point, didn't seem to quite
know what to do. There was one response. Then we were told, "Well, we'll know in 48 or 72
hours if that worked. Then after we know it didn't work, it'll take another several days
after that to put in place response number two." And everybody learned the lingo and
the jargon. Top hat. Top kill. Junk shot. All this stuff. And when none of it worked,
there was this feeling like we thought they knew what to do, how to make this stop. They
seem to be as clueless as we are. >> DUDLEY: So it surprised everybody that
this has been taking as long as it has. Right after the incident, we pulled together people--more
than 100 companies here, the experts from the government and ourselves--and we laid
out parallel tracks of engineering. Try to learn what was happening with the well, make
sure we did nothing that made it work, because there is a containment--
>> SUAREZ: Worse. >> DUDLEY: Make it worse, yeah. Um, we tried
what was the lowest-risk, quickest, easiest way with the first containment dome. We had
a problem with hydrates, which was an unusual problem, which created ice crystals, which
started to float it off. We learned from that, but at that time, we also had six other options
that we're working our way through, which we're doing today. So we've learned and we
learned and we alter, we learn, and then we do. Right now, we've got an option of relief
wells that are coming down. There's two of those. We've got options beyond that that
we're planning today. We're dealing with this as best we know how. We're not making it up
as we go along, 'cause we have the absolute best engineering and science minds in the
world working on this. It's just a very unusual problem that we've never faced before.
>> SUAREZ: Curtis writes from Vancouver, British Columbia, "What's your alternative plan if
the interception of the relief well fails? How much longer could Americans expect this
unprecedented disaster to be prolonged?" >> DUDLEY: So we've got relief wells that
have come down now. We've got two of them that are being drilled. We had a major success
just two days ago. One of the most difficult things is coming down with the relief well
and locating the first well. We've now come down and done some electromagnetic ranging.
We're now running parallel only 20 feet away from the well. We need to drill down about
600 more feet, put casing in there, make it very solid, and then we'll be able to enter
the other well--the original well bore. If we have a problem with that, we have a second
one coming down. These drilling relief wells--There's nothing guaranteed, but it is technology that
we know how to do and have done before and is more common in the world. If those don't
work, we're now working with the government on another series of options to be able to
direct and divert flow from the well and they're not far enough along to describe them. It's
really up for working with the government to think about what the options are, but there
are at least two other options to divert the flow.
>> SUAREZ: The well--the oil that you're collecting, how come you have to burn some of it instead
of loading it on to ships and taking it somewhere? At least if it's not going into the Gulf,
it can be oil somewhere. >> DUDLEY: So if you-- I don't know if you've
seen the photographs of the site itself, but there's about five, six major vessels out
there. There's skimming vessels moving around in it and the supply boats. We've got simply
a problem of not being able to put a very, very large vessel in there in the middle of
that city of activity. So we, um, uh, we've got a series of vessels in there that can
take the crude. We lighter it off, which means we bring in smaller ships and pump it and
then shuttle it away, but there's simply a space limitation and one of those vessels
has a big flare on it. We always burn the gas as well, so you have heat problems and
so it's a space limitation over this well and it's quite extraordinary the amount of
equipment and men out there and we're constantly watching and maneuvering this so that-- There's
more than 1,500 men out there on the vessels working. Make sure they remain safe.
>> SUAREZ: But space limitations, again, back to those assurances to the federal government
to be allowed to drill there in the first place. If you're having space limitation problems
with the amount that you're pulling up from the bottom now, how are you ever going to
collect four times as much oil in the event of a major discharge?
>> DUDLEY: Well, the original spill was the assumption of a major event discharge that
spread out and then we responded. What no one anticipated was the need for two relief
wells, three large vessels to contain and capture flow rates. It is something that simply
no one envisions and, you know, if you talk to people in the industry, there's a remarkable
response and logistics in engineering effort to bring that all together in that space.
No one anticipated that. There's no plan in the world that would have anticipated that
and we've had to put together systems that normally take a year or two to engineer in
really a month. >> SUAREZ: N.L. sent us, from California,
this note. "What do you think of the attached video? How does it compare to your current
efforts to suppress the oil spill?" [pause] >> Spill on a very large table.
>> Sir, I think we are underestimating just how much coffee was spilled.
>> Yeah, that's a lot of coffee. >> Well, we better hurry up, because it's
almost reached my laptop. >> Calm down. Calm down. Look.
>> It's also gonna destroy all the fish. >> Oh, boy, okay. Go plug it up.
>> My god, it's encroaching on my map of Louisiana. >> DUDLEY: Hmm.
>> SUAREZ: That's been viewed 8 1/2 million times. I don't know if you've seen it already.
I suspect you have. >> DUDLEY: Well, I haven't seen it, but people
with BP talk about it. Everyone, you know, it makes their shoulders go down, 'cause they
feel terrible about what's happened. It's an unusual way to talk about what is a very
painful thing for people, um, and I think it's deeply affected people at BP. Not only
this, but just what's happened on the beaches themselves. It's a company where people get
up in the morning and for years have thought they were and feel that they are working for
a company. Then they go to work every day thinking they're doing some good. They want
to bring energy to people. They want to do it in a safe way, a clean way. The company
puts a lot of emphasis on solar and wind projects. It's a very proud company of people. So what's
happened here has shaken people. They're quieter. They're very thoughtful. But they really are
a part of the fabric of America and they just feel bad and I think videos like that, the
expressions of, uh, uh, uh, uh, pain and outrage at what's happened are everywhere and that's
a lighter way that people have put it, but it's the same message. This is just not good.
>> SUAREZ: Anthony writes from Hoboken, New Jersey, "At the hearing before Congress, Tony
Hayward was evasive about the recklessness of how BP does business. BP violations greatly
outnumber those of other oil companies. Why did you continue to violate rules again and
again that led to this disaster?" >> DUDLEY: Well, if you look at the number
of violations, this really results--starts to result as a, uh, tragic accident that BP
had about five years ago in a place called Texas City, a refinery. And that has led to
a number of violations. A large number of the violations and--
>> SUAREZ: So you're saying the Texas City refinery led to charges for retroactive offenses?
>> DUDLEY: Well, no. There was violations around and it took a number of years to go
through that Texas City process and there were particularly a number of large violations
around that one incident and as a result of that incident, it shook the company up. There
was new management in the company who put in place the--almost the drive in the company
about safe and reliable operations. It became the way we started every meeting. That was
the way we sat down and planned every project. This was just sort of getting itself deeply
ingrained in the company and that's what's so tragic about what's happened now. Given
the size of BP, which is the largest oil and gas producer in the U.S., there are other
projects that you'll read about and hear about. There is no way that I believe that there's
a systematic lack of emphasis and attention to safe and reliable operations for our people
and equipment. That's why it's particularly difficult to watch what's happened on this
accident. But in terms of attention and lack of attention to safety, it's just not our
culture. It was very, very strongly built into what we do in the management systems
of the company. >> SUAREZ: Yet there's been pretty intense
criticism of the way the company has handled itself in its dealings with the public--the
tone, the messaging, the way it was explaining what it was doing, even whether or not your
boss was participating in a yachting competition while people were watching that famous widget
online with endless amounts of oil and gas pouring out of the floor of the Gulf of Mexico.
>> DUDLEY: Mm. Yeah, I think our image, regardless of whether there's some statements that's
been made that, uh, have created an image that until we shut the well off, and we stop
the oil leak, and we get well into cleaning and clean up the beaches, I think that, you
know, I know that BP's reputation is just going to be scrutinized terribly, as it should
be. One of the reasons for setting up this Gulf Coast Restoration Organization is to
try to send the signal to the country, and the governors, and the administration that,
hey, we're here for the long term, there's no one going to cut and run in terms of BP
containing its liabilities. It's pouring resources and people into this, it's--You know, I hope,
Ray--I hope down the road there's a story to be told about--You know, actually, it's
a terrible, terrible accident that happened. And I do believe it could have happened to
I would say any company, but the companies in the oil and gas industry. But that people
say, "Well, you know, actually, they--they did step up right away, they didn't try to
hide behind the laws they did set up the claims programs within weeks." That it will be regarded
as a quite an unusual corporate response. I know it doesn't feel that way now, but I
absolutely believe that this is somewhat of an unprecedented corporate response. Nobody
wants to hear that now. But I hope someday that people will see that. If this had happened
to a company with less resources, I don't know where this would have gone.
>> SUAREZ: In this big complex of buildings that we're sitting in, I am bound to guess
that there are whole departments that sit and pore over regulations, that file voluminous
permitting documents, and do negotiations for exploration sites and extraction sites.
Are you anticipating, are you expecting and already factoring it into the cost of doing
business, that you're just going to get extra scrutiny for a while?
>> DUDLEY: I think that's right. And I think that's not an unreasonable thing to expect.
And I think that what we need to do as a company is absolutely go back again, and again, and
again, and again, and review our safety processes, our management processes to make sure that
we are in fact judged to a higher standard. And I expect that.
>> SUAREZ: Gail writes from Seattle, Washington, "Is BP soliciting suggestions from experts
outside the company and the oil industry in trying to stop this catastrophe? How are solutions
evaluated? Are solutions that do not allow for oil to still be 'captured' seriously considered?"
>> DUDLEY: We've had--I just visited with a group yesterday. We have--We've received
more than 110,000 suggestions and ideas for next steps, whether it's engineering, or collection,
or cleanup. We have in this building here a group of 40 people who screen and categorize,
and screen them, and look through them. There's been, out of the 110,000, it's been less than
1,000--as many as 1,000 of those we have looked forward, taken to the next step, we've even
contracted with companies themselves. We had an event on the coast--
>> SUAREZ: So some of them-- >> DUDLEY: No, absolutely.
>> SUAREZ: People looked at them and said, "We didn't think of that."
>> DUDLEY: That's right. They've been primarily on the cleanup and the spill response, rather
than the engineering--subsea engineering. Because, quite frankly, there's such a tremendous
amount of pressure data and historical data that we're reviewing in great detail with
the U.S. government and the national labs, and so the Department of Energy, and Secretary
Chu and his team--but it takes a great deal of time-- have provided many suggestions that
we put in place. One of them was the ability through some new equipment to go down in gamma
radiography. And we've been able to x-ray the blowout preventers, and it helped make
decisions based on that, as an example. Most of the suggestions that we're implementing
regard the spill response and cleanup. >> SUAREZ: Max writes, "What's your reason
for using private security to prevent reporters from talking to cleanup crew members? And
what incentives are you giving your employees to stay silent, or to the media, to prevent
them from discussing these suppression efforts?" >> DUDLEY: Well, this is a bit of an urban
myth. We have a policy that anybody who's working on this has the right to talk with
the media. And there is no suggestion that they can't, but it persists. And I've seen
some of the tapes that show people that say, "You can't talk because BP won't let us talk,"
whatever. Just today, we've made an announcement and given all of the contractors and the sub-contractors,
and the BP people pocket cards that has our media policy. If anybody wants to question
it, there's the card. Now, nobody's obligated to talk to the media, and a lot of people
don't feel comfortable or don't want to. But in terms of a response by BP, it's just not
a problem. And we have also 400 media journalists that are imbedded in the spill response organizations,
as well. >> SUAREZ: Jim Z. writes from Ann Arbor, Michigan,
"How is BP going to help the local small businesses that have BP branded stations that are feeling
the customer outrage? Will BP release station owners from their franchise contracts?" And
certainly, that's one of the ways that people far from the Gulf engage, encounter BP every
day, their local network of stations. >> DUDLEY: Yeah, Jim raises a good point.
Around the country, it varies depending on where you are in the country, there are some
places where they've organized boycotts. It's a shame because these are independent franchise
owners. We're looking at this now. We want to make sure that, one, that our franchise
owners, which have the brand, have full information of what's happening, trying to allow them
to be able to respond and communicate. I can't tell you what exactly the--the planning is
on the franchise owners. I can find out. But I'm--Right now, I've mainly been working on
the Gulf Coast itself. >> SUAREZ: What have they been telling the
company? Are they feeling it out there? >> DUDLEY: Some--It depends on the geography
you're in. Some of the geographies have been particularly difficult. And sometimes it's
particularly cities themselves. Some, the business hasn't been affected. But it is--it
is not right and it is sad for those that are independent franchise owners that happened
to carry a brand-- a brand they were proud of-- and then this has happened and it's affected
their business. And I'll--You raise a good point. I'm going to go back and speak with
our Refining and Marketing team to find out how they're responding.
>> SUAREZ: One viewer asks, "Is it true that warnings were raised as long as a year before
the 'Deepwater Horizon Disaster'? That the area of sea bed chosen by the BP geologists
might be unstable, or worse, inherently dangerous?" >> DUDLEY: Well, this is an area of Louisiana,
in the deepwater, where there's many wells have been drilled, there's nothing particularly
unique about this well. And in terms of the the unstable seabed, that's not contributing
in any way that I know of to this accident. This is not an unusual well, other than, you
know, what's happened with it. But in terms of its uniqueness, I think that's a myth,
in terms of the seabed. >> SUAREZ: And reports that I've read that
there are fishers nearby where there's ancillary oil that's now leaking onto the ocean floor?
>> DUDLEY: I've seen some of those reports. We've actually taken the ROVs and looked around
to see if that's right. That persists. There's--I've saw a Russian report that said that the seabed
was permanently fractured and that there were submarines down there that knew that. I mean,
there's some pretty unusual reports out there. But there's no evidence at all about fractured
seabed and uncontrollable oil. >> SUAREZ: We got a lot of questions about
Corexit, the dispersant. Sonya asks, "Given all the information on the toxicity of the
Corexit, and the directives from the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Coast
Guard, why is it still being used?" >> DUDLEY: So the Corexit is a dispersant
that's approved by the E.P.A. It's been used for a long time in the Gulf Coast, it's--I've
been told that it's one of the common dispersants that's been used by the Coast Guard for more
than 20 years in the Gulf Coast. The toxicity levels--Many things have a toxicity level,
including dish soap, so there is a toxicity level to it. It's not far off of the toxicity
levels of dish soap, and the lab tests show that. What it does is it takes the oil, breaks
it into very, very, very small droplets, which then increase the surface area and the warm
waters allow the bacteria to do its work and eat it. And it--and that's what it's designed
to do. That's working. But Sonya's correct, nowhere in the world have we ever had this
amount of volume for this period of time being put in the water. So it's an unknown. We don't
know. >> SUAREZ: Well, that's really the nub of
the problem, isn't it? That instead of having an incident where there is a finite amount
of oil that then needs to be dispersed, we have more oil every day, day after day, and
you might have to calibrate your response in a different way because you can't just
keep dumping Corexit into the water. >> DUDLEY: Well, the tradeoff that is being
made, really by the U.S. government regarding this--because we'll do whatever they suggest
we do. But the tradeoff of using dispersant on the oil that way, which degrades it faster,
uh, versus having black oil on the surface that then sweeps into the beaches and the
marshes--that's the tradeoff that's being made here. And so the tradeoff is that that
actually that dispersed oil will be better for the ecology for the Gulf, then having
the black oil hit beaches and marshes. And that's the difficult choice we have.
>> SUAREZ: Gabriella asks, from St. Louis, Missouri, "The combined toxic burden of the
spilled oil and added chemicals will cause long-term illness of a potentially large number
of people. Is there a plan in place to reduce exposure risk now and taking care of the sick
or incapacitated in the long run?" >> DUDLEY: Well, it says "will." I think when
you speak to people in the U.S. government, they don't know that. I think that's--we don't
know. We actually don't know. Again, I would come back to the dispersant. The volumes are
large. It's something that we don't know yet, because it's never been done at that stage.
But it's also not a high level of toxicity. So we just don't know. We will measure it.
We will work with health officials. We already are, today. We're baselining all kinds of
activities around the Gulf Coast, the government is, so that we will know if it has that sort
of impact. It's too early to say, but we will know. We will learn, and we will respond.
>> SUAREZ: This brings us full circle, in a way, to where we started, and that is trying
to get a universal number, the size of the liability. There have been chemical releases
and fouling of soil and water in all kinds of industries and all kinds of places where
many of the claims don't come online until long after the initial event. And the company
is still asked to assume some liability for this. When you're trying to do that and have
some predictability as a business, how do you do that?
>> DUDLEY: Well, I think the first level of uncertainty is being able to stop the leak,
because as long as that leak's going it, in many ways, is sort of an infinite problem.
There's no way to stop it. So we'll get the leak stopped and we clean up. There's a lot
of discussions on lack of transparency on rate. I have no doubt that we will study that
and give all the data that we have to everyone, and a fine will likely be assessed the company.
But being able to put some range on liabilities for a company like BP, to make sure that it
can plan its portfolio--and we most certainly will have to sell some assets around the world
to be able to be sure that we meet these commitments over time--is important because investors
need to know that the company, one, is going to do what it says it's going to do. It has
a way of seeing that the company can remain strong and viable with cash flows, meet these
obligations and still grow is a very, very careful balance. It's in no one's interest
to see a company like BP not be strong enough to meet these commitments. And that's part
of what I'm going to be doing in the United States. That's part of what BP's management
in London will be doing is looking at how can we meet the commitments, stay a viable
business, still attract investors, get back to the point where we can pay dividends to
investors. And it's an aspiration. There's no question. But come out of this half a decade
from now a stronger company that people will look back and say, "Yeah, they did the right
thing." >> SUAREZ: But even if you don't put a foot
wrong from now on, aren't there going to be people in 2019 and 2023 and 2026 who come
along and say, "I ate fish from the Gulf" or "I worked around the materials. Now I have
nerve damage." "Now I have liver cancer." Is there a way to make the unpredictable predictable
enough so that it doesn't put a permanent brick on your business? 'Cause you've been--your
share price has been battered these last couple of weeks.
>> DUDLEY: So if you--There are very few analogies to this, but I'll take one the American people
are certainly aware of is the Exxon Valdez that happened 21 years ago. Many of those
claims and the suits, I think, only ended this year in terms of finality to a degree
with that event. I think that this one will go on for a long time. I mean, Exxon is a
strong, viable American company today. So what we need to do, as a company, is plan,
anticipate, put funds and monies aside so we can meet those liabilities and commitments
and still steer a business that can be allowed to thrive in the future. And I don't think
we have any choice except try to find that right balance of meeting commitments and having
a viable business. >> SUAREZ: M. Sabby writes from Oklahoma,
"Why are the updates posted on the BP website vaguely worded? The live video feeds seem
intended more to mollify than to inform in a meaningful way when there is not enough
detailed, specific, concrete information about what we see there."
>> DUDLEY: Mm. So, uh, what I say to Mr. Sabby is if they're vague, I'm going to go back
and I'm going to talk to people and say, you know, "Sharpen this up. Be clearer." I'm not
sure exactly what he's referring to. We have had a camera there looking at the oil spill
that's coming out of the well from the very beginning. They're done with--There's about
14 robots down there, and sometimes they move off. And other ones are in place. There's
maintenance that needs to be done, and we've had well operation where I'm sure some very
strange things are happening on the screen, and people can't follow it. And we talked
about that. So in the coming weeks, as we do additional things around that well head
and change the flow, we are gonna try to put in there, sort of, a bubbled caption of what
people are seeing, how they see it. We're even talking about one of our engineers maybe
having a verbal way of saying, "Here's what's happening now." Because we realize it's confusing.
>> SUAREZ: I'm glad you brought up that camera because people have talked about being riveted
by that image. And I'm wondering if maybe the company thought it was a good idea on
day seven, eight, or fourteen when you thought you were going to get control over this thing.
But now, in days 70, 71, and 72, it's as much a blessing as a curse that people can still
see that gusher coming out of the surface of the Gulf.
>> DUDLEY: And it's a good reminder for us too. We see it and it puts a sense of urgency
on everybody. You know, the age--Here we are in 2010. The insatiable appetite for information,
explanation, the almost instantaneous desire for this. And knowing that, that's why we
put it out there. We knew that it was going to, in some ways, make our life more difficult
in terms of we're going to have to apply a lot of attention now to explaining what was
happening, and we do. We put that out there. The video feeds originally went into the Department
of Interior, the Department of Energy, and Coast Guard, and ourselves in the early days.
And then we were asked to put feeds into certain members of Congress. We've done that. Then
we've been--People have said, well, we haven't provided high resolution enough video. And
we haven't always been as quick to respond on those things. But we're not hiding anything.
And we do not have huge staffs of people to respond to all the information requests, but
we're trying and doing the best we can with this.
>> SUAREZ: Bob Dudley is the President and CEO of BP's Gulf Coast Restoration Organization.
He's joined us at BP headquarters in Houston. Mr. Dudley, thanks a lot.
>> DUDLEY: Thanks, Ray. Happy to be here. >> SUAREZ: And thanks for joining us in this
unique collaboration between the PBS NewsHour, YouTube, and Google. Your questions from around
the country and around the world put directly to Bob Dudley. From Houston, I'm Ray Suarez
from the PBS NewsHour. Thanks for joining us.