BP wins spill fine argument as it gears up for court case

OIL GIANT BP last night clinched a $3.4bn (£2.2bn) reduction in the potential fine it faces under the US Clear Water Act for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The FTSE 100 firm, which is preparing to defend itself at next week’s court fight against the US government, has agreed with the US Department of Justice that the amount of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico was lower than the latter had been arguing.

BP yesterday said that the 4.9m spilt barrels estimate from the US government is too high by 20 per cent, believing 3.1m barrels should be considered the maximum limit as it also recovered 810,000 barrels directly from the Macondo well.

The maximum fine payable under the act is $4,300 per barrel, and the reduction sees BP’s penalty fall from a maximum of $21bn.

BP said yesterday that it is preparing for Monday’s trial after failing to reach a reasonable settlement for civil claims relating to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“We have always been open to settlements on reasonable terms, failing which we have always been prepared to defend our case at trial,” Rupert Bondy, group general counsel of BP, said yesterday.

The two-phase trial, which will begin in New Orleans, will decide whether BP was grossly negligent at the time of the disaster, which killed 11 workers and spilled oil into the Gulf of Mexico for three months. Bondy said yesterday that BP “firmly believes” it was not grossly negligent.

Earlier this month, BP said its total liability for the oil slick could reach $90bn.

Yesterday, a US federal judge gave final approval to Transocean – the Switzerland-based owner of the Deepwater Horizon vessel – for its $1bn civil settlement relating to the oil spill.