Robert Dudley’s biggest challenge at BP will be to ensure the London-based company’s survival in the U.S., where it’s the largest oil and gas producer.


Dudley, poised to become the first American head of the former U.K. state oil company, will need to convince politicians BP should be allowed to keep drilling in the U.S. after a runaway well in the Gulf of Mexico caused the country’s worst oil spill. The Gulf is home to about 25 of the 40 production projects BP plans by 2015.


“It’s a wise choice to pick an American,” said Gudmund Halle Isfeldt, an analyst at DnB NOR ASA in Oslo.


“This will take off some of the pressure, but not all of it. For the first time, they can start looking ahead to the future of BP.”


BP’s reputation in the U.S., home to about 40 percent of its shareholders, has been battered by the Gulf disaster. The oil company faces a likely bill of more than $30 billion to pay the cost of cleaning up the spill and compensating its victims. Criminal charges against BP are almost inevitable, according to legal analysts.

The board met yesterday reportedly to decide on Dudley as Tony Hayward’s successor, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. BP said in a statement that no final decision has been made on management changes.

For BP to “remain a strong and viable in the U.S., it has a great deal of work to do,” Dudley said in an interview last month.