Anadarko Petroleum Corp. is assisting in the industry-wide effort to contain the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), with an eye on protecting the company and its shareholders, CEO Jim Hackett said last week.

Hackett spoke with financial analysts in a scheduled quarterly conference call (see related story), but during the question-and-answer period, nearly all of the queries pertained to the oil spill.

BP plc is operator and 65% stakeholder in the leaking deepwater Macondo well. Anadarko is a “nonoperating” partner with a 25% stake; Mitsui Ltd. holds the remaining 10% stake.

“It’s so early in the response effort, in fact gathering, as a nonoperator we’re not in a position to speculate on the root cause of the accident,” Hackett said. “Based on what we know today, we are not currently making any interruptions to our capital spending programs or strategic objectives.” Anadarko’s five-year drilling program calls for 20 deepwater wells in the GOM.

As a nonoperator of the leaking well, Anadarko “farmed into this after the well had already spud,” said the CEO. “Operating procedures were all done before we actually farmed in. When you typically approve these as a nonoperator, we approve just the capital spending level…from a geological perspective as opposed to looking at the detail, well design or procedures. We were not involved in that at all.”

Asked whether Anadarko could change its capital allocation longer term if the expenses were more than the company could handle, or if additional regulations for drillers could impact the exploration program, Hackett said it was too early to speculate.

“I will tell you, given the portfolio we have, it will be fine for economic reasons to do something in another part of the world,” said the CEO, if GOM exploration became a burden regulatory-wise or cost-wise.

“We certainly can do that and we have the prospectivity to do that as well,” based on the company’s global gas and oil portfolio.

Costs to remediate the spill are another matter.

“The real key is how long the well keeps flowing,” said Hackett. “If the well is shut in, the cost escalation starts to go down as opposed to up. So I think we’ve got to be careful not to speculate as the number ranges.”

The company carries insurance designed to cover $177.5 million of its costs associated with the oil spill, less deductibles of $15 million. Based on current well cost estimates, which are $6-7 million a day, Anadarko has enough to cover “two to three months” of its share of the remediation costs.

If it were to burn through the insurance coverage, Anadarko at the end of March had about $3 billion of cash on hand and $1.3 billion committed in its bank borrowing line through 2013.

However, Anadarko would do even more to protect the company if need be, said Hackett.

If more funding was required to pay its share of environmental remediation, “we could redirect or reduce our spending, selectively sell or farm down assets. We have a broad and deep portfolio and attractive assets.”

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