British energy company BP had one of its best years in terms of new exploration despite a reputation damaged by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, an executive said.
BP Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley said the company signed 80 contracts in 11 countries for new exploration acreage in 2011, its best year in roughly three decades.
"I have to say one of the surprises -- and it's been a surprise all year -- is, after the events that we had in the Gulf of Mexico (in 2010), I thought that we would have more a difficult time in taking on exploration roles and being offered rights around the world than has happened," he was quoted by The Daily Telegraph newspaper in London as saying.
Dudley told investors in Chicago this week that BP had to earn back the trust of the American people as it aims to expand its U.S. footprint.
Dudley said BP's work in the Midwest, largely at its Whiting oil refinery in Indiana, was a sign of the company's commitment to the U.S. economy.
During a presentation in London marking the release of BP's Global Energy Outlook report, Dudley said his company planned to drill twice as many in 2012 as it did last year.
Dudley predicted that oil consumption would slow down for the year in part because of higher oil prices and a reduction in subsidies in non-European countries. The fastest growing resource, he said, was natural gas.