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BP's Dudley Takes over as Point Man in Gulf

BP executive Bob Dudley has officially stepped in to take over responsibility for the Gulf oil spill response from beleaguered CEO Tony Hayward, the company confirmed Wednesday.

Dudley, who had led BP's operations in the Americas and Asia, will head the Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, effective immediately, and report to Hayward.

"In the near term, my focus will be on listening to stakeholders, so we can address concerns and remove obstacles that get in the way of our effectiveness. And we'll build an organization that over the longer term fulfils BP's commitments to the restore the livelihoods and the environment of the Gulf Coast," Dudley said.

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During an appearance on CBS' "The Early Show", Dudley discussed his new role and addressed the companies two main challenges- stopping the massive flow of oil into the Gulf and financing a $20 billion federally administered escrow fund to pay out damage claims.

During often contentious testimony last week on Capitol Hill, Hayward said the company estimated the well held 2 billion gallons of oil, which would mean up to 97 percent of the reserve has yet to spill into the sea. According to current flow rate estimates, it would take up to four years for that to happen, if attempts to stop the flow using two relief wells fail.

Dudley, however, dismissed that worst-case scenario.

"Well, we have the capability to drill these relief wells. We'll be able to go down 18,000 feet. We've got two of them drilling. I fully expect the well itself will be shut off in August," he said on CBS' "The Early Show" Wednesday.

Dudley also addressed reports that the company was looking to sell off assets in order to create the $20 billion claims fund - a fact that stirs doubts about the company's overall financial health.

"BP is a strong company. We have cash flows around the world. What we want to make sure setting up this $20 billion escrow is that we have resources to do that. We'll look at our portfolio around the world. There may be assets we'll sell. We want to position ourself to be able to meet those commitments. We can do that. We have to do it systematically."

BP said the organization will manage all aspects of the response to the Deepwater Horizon incident and the oil and gas spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Having grown up in Mississippi, Bob has a deep appreciation and affinity for the Gulf Coast, and believes deeply in BP's commitment to restore the region," Hayward said.

"Our commitment to the Gulf States is for the long-term. And that requires a more permanent sustainable organization to see it through," Hayward added.

BP had said on Tuesday that Dudley would be taking the lead in the United States while Hayward retreated to his chief executive role.

Dudley, 54, lost out to Hayward when BP chose a new CEO three years ago.

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