BP publishes Gulf environmental data as spill liability ruling looms

London (Platts)--18Nov2013/229 pm EST/1929 GMT


BP has begun publishing a mass of environmental assessment data collected from the Gulf of Mexico since 2010 as part of its latest efforts to rebuild its reputation and public trust in the wake of the Macondo rig disaster and subsequent oil spill.

The data, collected by BP and federal and state agencies since the spill, includes an "unprecedented amount" of information on environmental conditions in the Gulf, BP said Monday.

Included in the initial release published Monday are more than 2.3 million lines of water chemistry data, BP said, adding that more data releases are planned in 2014.

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"Making the data and supporting information available in a usable format is part of BP's ongoing effort to keep the public informed about potential injuries to, and the recovery of, natural resources in the Gulf," Laura Folse, BP's head of response and environmental restoration, said in a statement.

BP said it hopes access to the data will further support scientific research and other studies.

BP stepped up its public relations offensive in the US in recent weeks, as it battles to contain settlement payouts over the April 2010 disaster, which killed 11 rig workers and sparked the world's biggest offshore oil spill.

Earlier in November, BP launched a website to "set the record straight" on the disaster and counter its critics over the role of the company in the huge offshore spill and environmental damage that ensued.

Last week, BP published is maiden US Economic Impact Report, which concluded it generated a total of almost $150 billion of business and more than 260,000 jobs in the US in 2012. The company also touted a $1 million contribution to a new US Olympic sports services center in Colorado.

BP won a small US court victory in September, when an appeals court ruled in its favor to halt some compensation payouts as part of the company's struggle to cap runaway claims over the Macondo blowout and spill.

But a key liability trial over the spill continues in New Orleans, with BP most recently refuting US government claims that the blowout caused 4.2 million barrels of oil to leak into the Gulf of Mexico. BP contents the figure is 42% lower at 2.45 million barrels.

The final figure, and a ruling on whether BP was guilty of gross negligence for the spill, will affect BP's liability for billions of dollars of additional fines under the US Clean Water Act.

A US government motion for summary judgment in the trial is due this week, with BP's response scheduled for December.

BP is also seeking to overturn a US ban on bidding for new government contracts, which has hampered its ability to expand its exploration assets in the offshore area.

BP was temporarily barred from bidding on new federal contracts -- including lucrative fuel supply deals for the US military -- last November after pleading guilty for its role in the Deepwater Horizon blowout and spill disaster.

The data is to be published on the BP website at http://gulfsciencedata.bp.com.

--Robert Perkins, robert.perkins@platts.com
--Edited by Annie Siebert, ann.siebert@platts.com

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