The chief executive of BP told a British newspaper that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is "relatively tiny" compared with the "very big ocean."

Tony Hayward, in an interview with the Guardian newspaper at the company's Houston crisis center, said:

"The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume," he said.

U.S. officials estimate that at least 5,000 barrels of oil per day are leaking from a pipeline more than 5,000 feet deep that was damaged more than three weeks ago by an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, which later sunk. Eleven workers died in the disaster.

Hayward told the Guardian that BP would "fix" the disaster, which could become the biggest ecological disaster in U.S. history.

"We will fix it. I guarantee it," he told the newspaper. "The only question is we do not know when."