ENVIRONMENTAL protesters disrupted an oil industry conference today but failed in their efforts to ambush BP’s under-fire chief executive Tony Hayward.
Mr Hayward was due to speak at the World National Oil Companies Congress in central London but pulled out of the event in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
BP chief of staff Steve Westwell stood in for Mr Hayward but a Greenpeace campaigner stormed the stage early in his speech, calling to "end the oil age".
Greenpeace said a second activist unveiled a banner reading ``Go Beyond Petroleum'', although the campaigners were escorted away by security.
Mr Hayward committed the latest in a series of PR gaffes on Saturday when he was photographed sailing around the Isle of Wight - drawing more fire from the White House while the group faced a 10-hour disruption to its efforts to control the spill.
Despite the scale of the disaster unfolding in the Gulf, Mr Westwell used his speech to argue that deepwater drilling should continue.
Mr Westwell said the accident was "tragic, unprecedented and extremely serious".
He added that BP’s forecasts showed a 45% increase in world energy demand over the next 20 years, while the International Energy Authority (IEA) predicts fossil fuels will still be the dominant source of energy in 2030.
"It’s a fact that if we are to meet this demand, our industry needs to find new reserves at new frontiers," Mr Westwell said,
He said "restoring confidence won’t be easy" but added that BP and the wider industry needed to change the way it operated with better safety technology and more effective ways to tackle major sub-sea spills.
Mr Westwell added: "We must find out exactly what went wrong and prevent a repetition. But we must not let it deter us from the wider, longer-term task of providing secure, sustainable, affordable energy for people around the world."
Pressure on the group is showing no sign of easing after yet more blows to its reputation since Mr Hayward’s mauling at the hands of US politicians last week.
BP has axed dividend payments for the first time since the Second World War and set up a 20 billion US dollar (£13.6 billion) compensation fund to pay out claims and damages since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank on April 20, killing 11 people.