BP’s legal gamble may trim spill bill by billions

NEW ORLEANS/SAN FRANCISCO, Mon Apr 22, 2013 — BP Plc’s attempt to get a U.S. federal court to pin at least a sizable amount of the blame for the Deepwater Horizon disaster on other companies may have saved it billions of dollars.

After failing to settle claims from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill through negotiations, the British oil company opted in February to go to trial with plaintiffs ranging from small businesses to the U.S. government over the damages it will face.

The decision rests with U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier, who could issue findings on blame and the level of negligence as early as July.

Legal experts say BP appeared to succeed in shifting some of the blame for the disaster to rig owner Transocean Ltd. and cement provider Halliburton Co. In doing so, it may have shaved a slice off a liability that could stretch into the tens of billions of dollars.

BP “put their faith in the hands of the court,” said Blaine LeCesne, a tort law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans who has followed the trial closely. “It looks like that might have paid off.”

Of course, if Barbier determines that BP was grossly negligent then it could more than offset anything it has saved by getting the rap for the disaster shared more broadly.

BP in $7 billion asset sale talks with Plains Exploration: source

NEW YORK, Mon Sep 10, 2012 – BP is in talks to sell some of its Gulf of Mexico oil fields to Plains Exploration & Production Co for roughly $7 billion, a person familiar with the matter said on Sunday, as the U.K. oil firm looks to raise money to pay for damages from the 2010 oil spill.

The amount BP will have to pay in damages for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill – America’s worst ever – is still in dispute. But last month the U.S. Justice Department accused the company of gross negligence and willful misconduct over the spill, a position that could lead to nearly $21 billion in civil damages if a federal judge agrees.

BP said in May that it was looking to sell a number of mature fields in the Gulf of Mexico, including its positions in the Marlin, Horn Mountain, Holstein, Ram Powell, and Diana Hoover fields.

A deal would be transformational for Houston-based independent oil explorer and producer, Plains, which had a market capitalization of $5.2 billion as of Friday. The company already has assets in the Gulf, as well as in California, Texas, Louisiana, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Like many other independent U.S. oil and gas companies, Plains has been working to build up its oil assets, as the price for U.S. natural gas has been in a prolonged slump. It had previously estimated that about 57 to 60 percent of its 2012 production would be oil.

The Wall Street Journal, which earlier reported news of the talks, said a deal could be announced as soon as this week.

BP says Halliburton destroyed Gulf of Mexico spill evidence

HOUSTON ― BP Plc. accused Halliburton Co. of destroying evidence that the oilfield services company did inadequate cement work on the Gulf of Mexico oil well that blew out last year, and asked a federal judge to punish Halliburton.

The accusation, in a BP court filing, raises the stakes ahead of a trial, expected in late February, to assign blame and damages for the April 2010 blowout of the Macondo well, which triggered the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Citing recent depositions and Halliburton’s own documents, BP said Halliburton “intentionally” destroyed the results of slurry testing for the well, in part to “eliminate any risk that this evidence would be used against it at trial.”

The oil company also said Halliburton appeared to have lost computer evidence showing how the cement performed, with Halliburton maintaining that the information is simply “gone.”

BP asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, who oversees spill litigation, to sanction Halliburton by ruling that Halliburton’s slurry design was “unstable,” a finding of fact that could be used at trial.

It also asked Barbier to direct that forensic experts be hired to find the missing computer data.

“These remedies are amply warranted in law and by principles of fair play, and they are essential to ensure this court’s trial is not tainted by Halliburton’s misconduct,” BP said in the filing.

Halliburton is the world’s second-largest oilfield services provider. A spokeswoman, Beverly Blohm Stafford, said the Houston-based company is reviewing BP’s filing.

“We believe that the conclusion that BP is asking the court to draw is without merit and we look forward to contesting their motion in court,” she said.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig’s explosion on April 20, 2010, caused 11 deaths, and brought tens of billions of dollars of lawsuits. Halliburton has accused BP of fraud and defamation, among other claims.