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Royal Dutch Shell wades in with attack on BP over spill

By Hugo Duncan and Simon Duke

Last updated at 12:49 AM on 13th October 2010

The boss of Royal Dutch Shell last night launched a blistering attack on beleaguered rival BP over the devastating Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Peter Voser said his company would never have made the mistakes that led to the death of 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig and the biggest environmental disaster in US history.

‘Shell clearly would have drilled this well in a different way and would have had more options to prevent the accident from happening,’ he said.

But Voser also acknowledged that the industry was illequipped to deal with a crisis of that size. ‘The industry was not prepared to handle this spill,’ he said.

The outburst at the Oil and Money conference in London was a major embarrassment for BP as it struggles to restore its battered reputation.

Some 185million gallons of oil spewed into the ocean in the three months after the April explosion and the cost of the clean-up is $10billion and rising.

It cost BP chief executive Tony Hayward his job. The gaffe-prone Brit was replaced with American Bob Dudley.

But Shell’s own record is far from spotless and industry sources pointed towards ongoing criticism of its operations in Nigeria and the 2004 reserves accounting scandal. BP (down 3.2p at 429.15p) declined to comment.

Voser also took aim at BP’s internal investigation into the causes of the explosion and the design BP chose for the well.

The Macondo well included a number of cheaper options – something US politicians said reflected a tendency for BP to put profits before safety. Voser said that there are lessons to be learned for the whole industry.

Yet Shell ( down 13p at 1,959p) paid out more than £200million in fines and compensation following one of the biggest accounting scandals in corporate history. In 2004, the group admitted that it had overstated its oil reserves by about 20 per cent – equivalent to some 3.9billion barrels – making the company appear more attractive to potential shareholders.

The scandal saw a raft of top executives depart, including chief Philip Watts and financial chief Judy Boynton.

The company has also come under fire for its environmental record in the Niger Delta in Africa and its plans to squeeze oil from bitumen-drenched tar sands fields in Alberta, Canada.

Oil sands production is a hugely controversial as it creates more carbon dioxide and greater destruction to the landscape than traditional crude extraction, according to environmental groups.


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