UK Markets open in 3 hrs 2 mins

BP: Manslaughter Charges Over Oil Disaster

(c) Sky News 2012

Two employees of BP face manslaughter charges over the Gulf of Mexico spill, as the oil giant agrees to pay a record £2.8bn fine.

Legal papers allege that well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine acted negligently in their supervision of key safety tests performed on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig before an explosion killed 11 workers in April 2010.

David Rainey, who was BP's vice president of exploration for the Gulf of Mexico, also faces charges of obstruction of Congress and false statements.

Earlier on Thursday, BP agreed to pay £2.8bn over six years after reaching a deal with the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The company will plead guilty to 14 criminal charges relating to the disaster.

"I want to be clear that today's resolution does mark the end of our efforts, and our criminal investigation remains ongoing," US Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters.

Bob Dudley, chief executive of BP, said: "We apologise for our role in the accident and as today's resolution with the US government further reflects, we have accepted responsibility for our actions."

Under the deal, BP has pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts of misconduct or neglect and three misdemeanour counts - including one under the Clean Water Act and one for obstructing Congress.

BP will pay £2.5bn to the DoJ in instalments over five years. It will pay an additional £331m to the SEC over a period of three years.

The oil company will make the first payment of £110m to the SEC this year.

The group has already paid out more than £24bn relating to the oil spill.

Mr Dudley said: "All of us at BP deeply regret the tragic loss of life caused by the Deepwater Horizon accident as well as the impact of the spill on the Gulf Coast region."

He added: "Since the spill, we have worked hard to rebuild confidence in the company.

"We take seriously not only our commitment to safety and operational excellence but also our communications with stakeholders, including the public, the government and our investors."

The settlement removes some of the uncertainty hanging over the stock since the disaster, but it does not cover outstanding civil claims against the group.

BP said it will "continue to vigorously defend itself" against civil claims and allegations of gross negligence.

"We are open to settlements, but only on reasonable terms," said Mr Dudley.

The settlement does not include individual civil claims or any compensation sought from individual states along the Gulf Coast.

BP said, as part of the settlement, it had agreed to improve safety at its Gulf of Mexico drilling operations and appoint two monitors to review safety and ethics at the company.

The group has struggled to repair its reputation after the Deepwater explosion, despite paying out billions of dollars so far to cover costs and claims.

It has been selling assets as part of its pledge to raise cash to pay the costs of the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

It has recently sold a Texas City refinery, five oil and gas fields in the US Gulf of Mexico and its Bristol-based liquified petroleum gas (LPG) distribution arm.