* BP defends CEO after Russia says expects Hayward to go
* Tropical storm Alex poses potential threat to clean-up
* BP shares gain after sharp losses last week
* Louisiana residents worry about dispersants (Adds quotes, Mississippi, Louisiana scenes; Updates tropical storm Alex and BP share price)
By Tom Bergin and Kristen Hays
LONDON/HOUSTON, June 28 (Reuters) - BP Plc BP.NBP.L and Russia's government traded words over the future of the energy giant's chief executive on Monday as a growing storm delayed efforts to capture more oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.
British-based BP said Tony Hayward was still CEO, with no change under discussion, after Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said he expected the embattled boss to resign soon and Moscow to be told the name of his successor on Monday.
Later, Sechin’s office said management changes were not raised when he met Hayward and BP was committed to a strategic partnership with Russia on various projects. [ID:nNLDE65R12K]
Hayward, criticized over his response to the disaster that began on April 20, was in Russia to address Moscow’s worries about BP’s local operations in the wake of the undersea leak that threatens fisheries, tourism and wildlife in four states along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
In the Gulf of Mexico, high waves from tropical storm Alex will delay BP’s plan to add more oil-siphoning capacity until next week, a company executive told reporters in Houston.
Kent Wells, executive vice president of exploration and production, said current siphoning systems should not be affected “unless unfortunately a storm heads directly our way.” But waves as high as 12 feet (3.6 metres) would delay hooking up a third vessel to capture oil, he said. [ID:nN28258499]
For full spill coverage link.reuters.com/hed87k
How much oil is really gushing? [ID:nN24203958]
Insider TV link.reuters.com/ned73m
ALEX STORMS INTO GULF
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said Alex was expected to become a hurricane on Tuesday, with winds of 96-110 mph (157-180 kph) by late on Wednesday before striking near the Texas-Mexico border and moving inland. [ID:nN28260590]
Shell RDSa.L shut subsea production at two platforms and BP evacuated some personnel from three platforms due to the threat of Alex, the companies said on Sunday. [ID:nN27622581]
While a hurricane could interrupt BP’s efforts to cap the well and clean up the spill, some specialists say the heavy weather could actually help mitigate environmental damage by dispersing the oil.
U.S.-listed shares of BP were up 2.7 percent to $27.70 on Monday, in the first session after a sell-off that sent the stock to a 14-year low. Its shares have lost more than half of their value since the spill began two months ago and are down some 24 percent since the start of June.
“It was getting oversold and now we’re seeing a bounce off of that,” said Andy Fitzpatrick, director of investments at Hinsdale Associates in Hinsdale, Illinois.
On Hayward’s future, he said: “It would be a positive if he were to step down and that could help the stock.”
BP said on Monday its spending to cap the well, clean up the spill and compensate those affected had accelerated to $100 million a day, bringing the total so far to $2.65 billion.
The company has set up a $20 billion compensation fund under pressure from the U.S. government.
MISSISSIPPI HIT, LOUISIANA WORRIES
Louisiana’s fragile wetlands have been worst-hit by the spill but Mississippi had escaped damage until Sunday, when oil washed ashore for the first time, although some had tainted its barrier islands. Oil has also come ashore in Alabama and Florida’s Gulf Coast. [ID:nN27239968]
Gluey gobs of brown oil and a rainbow sheen sloshed onto tourist beaches at Ocean Springs, Mississippi, about 10 miles (16 km) east of Biloxi, and at a beach used by fishermen that is close to an inland marsh.
While tropical storm Alex remained at a safe distance, people in southeastern Louisiana had more immediate concerns as lightning lit up the sky and a torrent of rain flooded roads.
Some residents were also concerned about BP and the Coast Guard’s continued use of chemical dispersants. On Monday, crews sprayed the material far offshore using airplanes.
Dispersants help oil dissolve within months, breaking it down into small particles that can be easily digested by organisms living in the Gulf.
But they are controversial as the long-term health implications are not clear. The Environmental Protective Agency is studying their use.
“They should stop using them,” said Mary Tompkins of Nairn, Louisiana.
Nalco, the company that makes the primary dispersant being used, Corexit, says the product is safe in the environment.
“I don’t believe that,” Tompkins said. “They need to stop.” (Additional reporting by Adrian Virgen in Campeche, Mexico, Darya Korsunskaya and Katya Golubkova in Moscow, Ernest Scheyder in Nairn, Louisiana, Leigh Coleman in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, Sarah Young in London and Ryan Vlastelica in New York; Writing by Jerry Norton; Editing by John O’Callaghan)