By the Blouin News Business staff

Ex-BP’s Hayward: from the Gulf of Mexico to Kurdistan

by in Europe, Middle East, U.S..

On April 21, 2010 the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded dumping millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: Reuters.

Tony Hayward has tried to avoid the public eye since quitting as chief executive of oil giant BP in October 2010 with a succulent payoff and a pension of around half a million pounds a year. Don’t be under the impression he slipped quietly into retirement. Far from it. Hayward embarked on new crude-related ventures almost straightaway. Today he’s back on top of a top-player oil company.

Quick reminder, Hayward was chief executive at the time of BP’s offshore drilling explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, which killed 11 people and poured an estimated 172 million gallons of oil–the equivalent of two fully laden supertanker’s worth–into the Gulf, the worst environmental disaster in the U.S. history.

The first phase of a civil trial to determine responsibilities opened in New Orleans this week, seeking to assign degrees of fault to the companies involved–but Hayward won’t be taking the witness stand. Instead, on Wednesday, he appeared briefly via a videotaped message.

Some believe he was made a scapegoat for the explosion. Others say what went wrong at the Deepwater Horizon rig happened on his watch, and a senior level position equals such level responsibilities. In either event, BP’s former CEO is back in oil.

Tony Hayward

In September 2011, through a reverse $2.1 billion merger, he co-created Genel Energy, an Anglo-Turkish independent oil and gas exploration and production company listed on the main market of the London Stock Exchange. The company, of which he’s chief executive, prides itself in being the largest holder of oil reserves in Iraqi Kurdistan–”one of the last great frontiers in the oil and gas industry,” as he put it.

Well aware of the booming crude oil production in Iraq, Hayward doesn’t mind that the Kurdish region is a matter of contention between the central and regional governments. Currently there’s an impasse over Iraq’s budget since neither side can agree on payments for oil companies operating in the autonomous region. Kurdistan is a major oil market player. But Hayward sees himself there to do business, not politics.

On February 28, Genel Energy reported a 2012 net profit of $75.9 million from revenue of $333.4 million. Production averaged 44,500 barrels per day (bpd). Genel’s exploration programme in Kurdistan this year calls for four “high-impact” wells into a field that might contain as much as 750 million barrels of oil equivalent, according to UPStream, an industry publication.

Estimations set the company’s potential production rise as high as 140,000 bpd by 2014 as Genel is expanding into the Mediterranean and the North Africa region.

In July 2011, Hayward joined the board of Glencore International, a Swiss commodities trader, as an independent director. There he chairs the Nominations Committee and serves on the company’s Environment, Health and Safety Committee.

His dealing with the Deepwater Horizon disaster was fiercely criticized. Some of his actions were unanimously condemned, such as saying weeks after the explosion that “I would like my life back.”  He recently divorced his wife of 27 years Maureen Fulton, who had stayed loyal to him during his downfall.

Since the natural disaster, almost three years ago, Hayward has denied any recklessness. At the New Orleans trial now in progress, the underlying accusation against BP is that cost-cutting and risk-taking was part of the firms culture; the company, it is alleged, went forward with drilling outside the margins deemed safe by the industry and regulators.

Meanwhile, Hayward is back drilling half a world away.