Saturday 3 March 2012

BP hopes to have reached settlement with thousands of Gulf Oil Spill victims.

Oil giant BP appears to have come to an out of court settlement worth US$ 7.8 billion with over 120 000 (mostly small) businesses effected by the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill. BP has already reached a US$ 6 billion settlement with another group of claimants; both claims will be met from a US$ 20 billion trust fund already set up by BP to cover the cost of damage to the Gulf region. The court case covering the liability of BP to the group, which was already adjourned for a week to allow negotiations between the parties, has now been further delayed to allow the parties to consider their positions. The judge in the trial is not obliged to accept the settlement, even if both parties are in agreement, and could potentially order the size of the payment to be substantially increased, particularly if he feels the spill was the result of gross negligence. Interestingly BP are themselves claiming the spill was the result of gross negligence - by contractor Halliburton.

Oil continued to pour into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank. National Geographic.

The oil spill was caused by an underwater explosion that destroyed the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, killing 11 oil workers, and allowed 4.9 million barrels (779 million liters) of oil to enter the Gulf of Mexico. This went on to cover beaches in 7 US States, devastating the local tourism and fisheries industries and having a catastrophic impact on the natural environment.

BP maintains this was the result of negligence by contractor Halliburton who had been responsible for installing the well-head that blew causing the explosion. Halliburton claim they are protected from liability by the terms of their contract with BP, although BP are arguing that this does not apply in the event of gross negligence by Halliburton. An investigation by the US government found that BP, Halliburton and rig owners Transocean had all been guilty of cutting corners on safety to save on costs.

So far BP has paid out US$ 37.2 billion, including the costs of capping the well, which was 1500 m underwater and took 87 days to seal, the US$ 20 billion into the fund to cover compensation to businesses on the Gulf, US$ 1 billion into a fund to help restore the Gulf environment and $13.6 billion for the initial cleanup costs. The company is also being sued by the US Government, and could potentially face fines in excess of US$ 18 billion. Separate claims are being pursued by the state governments in Alabama and Louisiana. BP are claiming Halliburton are responsible for 100% of these costs, though it is thought likely the two companies will reach a settlement. BP is understood to have already reached a settlement with Transocean, though the size of this has not been revealed.