Speculation mounts about future of BP boss

Speculation was mounting today over the future of BP boss Tony Hayward as its staff prepared to return to the storm-hit Gulf of Mexico.

Tropical Storm Bonnie - the latest setback to relief efforts at the damaged Deep Horizon rig - weakened yesterday, raising the prospect that emergency teams would soon return.

However, the forecast for embattled chief executive Mr Hayward remains unclear.

It has been reported the group will use the opportunity of publication of its interim results on Tuesday to announce Mr Hayward's departure.

BP yesterday reiterated its position that the chief executive "has the support of the board and management".

A spokesman added: "We are aware of the speculation and are making no comment."

In the coming days, the oil giant is also expected to announce whether Mr Hayward will face a second showdown with the US Congress - this time over its role in the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

A BP spokesman said today that the firm "will respond" to requests from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and "will offer someone", but has not said who.

It comes as BP's faltering clean-up operation began to recover from its latest setback.

Tropical Storm Bonnie led to the evacuation of dozens of vessels in the region on Friday.

Some were put on notice to return yesterday, as the storm broke up over the Gulf.

The rig drilling the relief tunnel that will blast mud into the broken well in an attempt to permanently seal it is among those preparing to move back, according to BP spokesman Steve Rinehart.

Mr Rinehart said: "It was a quicker turnaround than what it looked like it was going to be when the storm was predicted to be bigger and more intense."

He added: The ability to move back sooner will obviously allow it to return to relief well activity sooner than it appeared before."

But with hurricane season set to continue until late November, the risk remains that future bad weather will further hamper operations.

Although storms threaten the work of relief crews on the surface, it is thought highly unlikely that they could threaten to dislodge the cap sealing the ruptured well.

Don Van Nieuwenhuise, director of professional geoscience programmes at the university of Houston, explained: "There's almost no chance it'll have any impact on the well head or the cap because it is right around 5,000 feet deep and even the largest waves won't get down that far."

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