"We are doing everything in our power to respond in the right way," CEO Tony Hayward said.
Speaking this afternoon on the Louisiana coast, Hayward said he is "devastated" that oil from the company's leaking well has washed up on shore.
He said the company was fighting the battle on three fronts: "To eliminate the leak, to contain the oil on the surface, and to defend the shoreline." He said it was clear that the defense of the shoreline, at this point, "has not been successful. I feel devastated by that, absolutely gutted."
He promised that the company was in it for the long haul.
"We are going to clean every drop of oil off the shore. We will remediate environmental damage, and we will put the Gulf Coast right and back to normality as fast as we can," he said.
He said he shared the "enormous amounts of anger and frustration" on the parts of local communities. "This is something I never wanted to see. We are going to do everything in our power to deal with it as fast as we can and return the societies and communities of the Gulf Coast to normal as quickly as we can."
He said BP has put in place a comprehensive claims process, "to ensure that while people's livelihoods are impacted, they are kept whole economically."
Hayward also announced a $500 million research program to begin immediately studying the longer-term environmental impacts of the oil on the shoreline and in offshore marine environments. "That work will be conducted by the best scientific minds we can bring together. It will be independent of BP and help us establish the basis on which we remediate environmental impacts," he said.
When asked about possible criminal investigations, Hayward said, "I think there will be lots of investigations, quite rightly. We will deal with them as they come.
"There's been a lot of speculation on the accident. I think it's right we allow the investigations, which there are many, to proceed and allow the investigations to draw whatever is the right conclusion."
He said the company was cooperating with investigators.
"I am as devastated as you are by what I have seen here today. We are going to do everything in our power to prevent more oil coming ashore, and we will clean every last drop up and remediate environmental damage."
When asked about specific actions being taken to stop the leak, Hayward said, "We are working through, in a very rigorous scientific and engineering way, a series of options to eliminate the leak. They are being assessed from perspective of likelihood of success, a risk-reward approach."
He said two attempts have been made so far; one failed, the other was only partially successful. The third option, the "top kill" procedure, will be executed mid-week.
"It has never been done in 5,000 feet of water; if it was on land, we have a high confidence of success," Hayward said. "Because it's in 5,000 feet of water, we need to be realistic about the issues operating in a mile of water. We rate the probability of success between 60% and 70%.
"Beyond that, there is a third and fourth and fifth option around both containments and elimination. As I said, we are working through the options in a systematic, rigorous, engineering approach to ensure that we execute the best option with the greatest success, greatest likelihood of success and lowest risk in a sequence approach."
He disputed a suggestion that they were deploying chemical dispersants against the direction of the Environmental Protection Agency. "We have used dispersants from the beginning that are on the EPA-approved list. Everything we do with dispersants is with the explicit approval of the EPA, with the type and quantity and volume."
"We are doing everything in our power to respond in the right way. We are not limiting the resources we are applying to this. We are trying to do the right thing. We are trying to do it the right way and we are trying to communicate openly and transparently about everything that we have done."
He also said extensive testing is being done on other BP rigs in the Gulf of their blowout preventers. "The only rigs we have drilling today are the two drilling the relief wells," he said.