BP declines to say if tightening internal procedures

BP promises improved drilling practices

BP says it will improve drilling practices as it rebuilds investor and public confidence after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

BP has not admitted any flaws in its existing drilling procedures, which experts say would weaken its legal position as it battles against lawsuits from contractors blaming BP for the blast.

The company promised to more closely oversee the work of its contractors, echoing its position that the rig blast, which killed 11 men and led to the spill, was the fault of contractors including driller Transocean and Halliburton.

"BP clearly understands that they have to win back not only the regulators' confidence, but the confidence of the public as well," the head of the U.S. offshore drilling regulator Michael Bromwich said at a congressional hearing in Washington.

BP said it would also establish centres for monitoring its drilling wells in real time - something some rivals already do and which might have prevented the well blow-out which caused the disaster.

It declined to comment on whether it was addressing shortcomings in its own internal procedures that were highlighted in government investigations, such as its reliance on a single barrier to keep oil and gas in the well.

BP's rivals including Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and BG Group have criticised its design for the Macondo well, saying it contributed to the disaster.

BP said its plans go beyond regulatory requirements.     

Bromwich, director of offshore safety regulator the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, said his agency had already established strong new safety and environmental standards that all operators are required to meet.

BP said it will only use blow-out preventers (BOPs) - devices designed to prevent uncontrolled releases of oil and gas from wells - with twin sets of shears which could slice through drill pipes, and that it would have third parties verify the testing of BOPs.

The failure of the BOP on the rig that was drilling BP's Macondo well contributed to oil spill, although the panel investigating the disaster said even if it worked properly the fatal blast would still have occurred.

BP will also require lab testing of the cement mixtures its outside cementing contractors recommend for lining and sealing off oil wells, and provide the results to the offshore safety regulator.

BP's chief executive Bob Dudley, who took over from Tony Hayward after the leaking Macondo well was capped, had previously outlined some of the measures at public events in the past month.

Dudley too has declined to say whether BP was adopting enhanced well design measures, although Bromwich has said that BP had told his agency it was adopting improved internal standards in such areas as well design.

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