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BP GoM Spillover Finally Settled at a Record $20 Billion

U.K. supermajor BP plc’s BP court case tied to its 2010 Gulf of Mexico (GoM) oil spill suffered a setback on Monday. In New Orleans, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier refused to reverse his earlier verdict that the company had been reckless as well as negligent. The ruling granted final approval to a record-setting approximately $20 billion (17.5 billion euros) settlement. This is a far cry from the company’s initial estimate of only around $7.8 billion. However, to date, BP has already spent close to $7 billion.

The timing could not have been worse for the energy player which has been hit hard by beleaguered crude fortunes. Crude is now hovering around the one-month low mark after a surprise fall in gasoline demand in the U.S. The bearish prices we fear may continue as a spike in Russian production in March led to doubts over whether the oil producers’ meeting in Doha Apr 17 would be of any real help to the commodity. In its weekly release, Houston-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. BHI also echoed the bearish sentiment by reporting another all-time low weekly number of rigs engaged in the domestic space.

BP’s GoM settlement was agreed upon by the federal government and five U.S. states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. It consists of $5.5 billion in civil Clean Water Act penalties apart from another $8.1 billion for restoring the environmental damage of the GoM region. The energy major will have to shell out another $5.9 billion to meet other claims from states and local governments. The compensation is to be distributed over a period of 16 years.

Earlier, the energy major had cited an escalating settlement figure as computed by various federal bodies as excessive. BP pushed without much success for refund in some cases that it thought it had paid excessively in connection to economic damage claims to businesses and individuals.

The company argued unsuccessfully at federal bodies that certain payouts prior to Oct 2013 were excessive. The outcome was a drawback from the method of the first settlement that was approved in 2012. The company argued that the claims administrator was not correctly matching business' revenues and expenses, which was resulting in its overpayments. Another court order ensued for a new calculation method. However, the court refused to reverse the restitution of payments already made.

As a reminder, on Apr 20, 2010, offshore driller Transocean Ltd’s RIG ultra-deepwater horizon drilling platform, contracted to BP, sank following an explosion while operating in the U.S. GoM off the coast of Louisiana. The incident killed 11 workers and spilled nearly 3.2 million barrels of oil million barrels of oil till it was capped. Subsequently, a moratorium was imposed on offshore drilling at water depths of more than 500 feet in the region. The embargo was eventually lifted on Oct 12, 2010.

The breach of Clean Water Act along with other laws led the U.S. government to take legal action against the main defendants in the trial – BP, Transocean and Halliburton Company HAL. Several other companies were also taken to court.

BP expects first-quarter 2016 production to be broadly flat with fourth-quarter 2015. Also, full-year 2016 underlying production is projected to be broadly flat with 2015. For the first quarter, the company projects sequentially lower refining margins.

London-based BP plc is one of the world's largest energy companies, providing its customers with fuel for transportation, energy for heat and light, retail services and petrochemical products. It operates in three segments: Exploration and Production, Refining and Marketing, and Other Businesses and Corporate. BP currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

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BAKER-HUGHES (BHI): Free Stock Analysis Report
HALLIBURTON CO (HAL): Free Stock Analysis Report
BP PLC (BP): Free Stock Analysis Report
TRANSOCEAN LTD (RIG): Free Stock Analysis Report
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