BP America Chairman and President Lamar McKay said that he believes the accident on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that led to the loss of 11 lives and to the rig's eventual sinking was caused by "a failed piece of equipment."
He added, "We don't know why it failed yet in this contracted rig."
McKay compared efforts to try to trigger the blowout preventer to stop the flow of oil from the sea floor to performing "open heart surgery at 5,000 feet in the dark with robot-controlled submarines."
During an interview on ABC's "This Week," McKay told anchor Jake Tapper that BP, the oil industry and government partners are working on four fronts to manage the massive spill.
The top priority is to stop the leak at its source. Second, he said, BP is working on a containment system to collect the oil below the surface and channel the flow through a pipe. Third is fighting to keep oil from washing up on shore; and four is dealing with the clean-up of any oil on and off shore.
A containment dome, McKay said, has been fabricated and is in the final engineering phase. McKay said he expects the dome to be deployed in six to eight days. The dome will be lowered beneath the surface over the leak to contain oil coming from the well.
The Obama administration's top officials managing the response to the spill appeared on "This Week." Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Tapper a worst-case scenario could involve the flow of "tens of thousands" of barrels of oil flowing from the sea floor each day.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he is "confident the leak can be stopped. The only question is when it will be stopped.
Salazar said, "Best-case scenario, it gets stopped today. Worst-case scenario, this thing could keep going on for 90 days."
He expressed confidence that the oil industry "can operate safely."
Salazar said, "There are 30,000 wells that have been drilled out in the Gulf of Mexico, and so this is a very, very rare event."
He also warned that stopping oil production in the Gulf would "have a very, very huge impact on the economy."
The Interior Secretary said the administration will "not move forward with any kind of activity on offshore oil and gas drilling that isn't going to have safety first."
How Many Barrels of Oil Leaking Every Day Still Uncertain
Estimates of how much oil is emanating from the sea floor are "very difficult," McKay said, "because you can't measure [it] in any way accurately."
He added that "there is a large uncertainty range" around the estimate of 5,000 barrels per day that is said to be flowing from the well.
The Commandant of the Coast Guard Thad Allen, who's been given the title of National Incident Commander, said on "This Week," "The difference between 1,000-barrel-a-day discharge and a 5,000-barrel-a-day discharge is not uncommon with the accuracy that's available when using remotely operated vehicles at the bottom of the ocean."