BP faces fresh leak costs in $10bn lawsuit

BELEAGUERED oil giant BP was hit by a $10bn (£6.27bn) legal headache yesterday in Texas, where it is being sued for a chemical leak completely unrelated to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Lawyer Tony Buzbee yesterday filed the class action lawsuit on behalf of 2,000 people who claim their health has been jeopardised by the leak of Benzene and other toxic chemicals at the company’s Texan oil refinery in April and May this year, coinciding with the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

The lawsuit came as BP said it had raised $1.9bn towards the spill costs by selling its Columbian exploration business to a consortium of rivals. Under the terms of the deal, Ecopetrol, Colombia’s national oil company, will take on 51 per cent of the business, while Canada’s Talisman will take up the remaining 49 per cent. The two are set to hand over $1.25bn upfront and will pay the remainder once the sale is complete.

The sale forms part of BP’s 18-month plan to shed up to $30bn in assets to help pay for the dramatically escalating costs of the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

US government scientists have estimated that around 4.9m barrels of oil have so far billowed into the ocean since the initial well explosion three and a half months ago – a figure which could cost BP in excess of $20bn if charges of gross negligence are successfully brought against the company.

BP has already kick started its fire sale of assets by agreeing a deal with American group Apache to sell off $7bn in US, Canadian and Egyptian assets.