15 Oct 2011

US to let BP bid on Gulf of Mexico leases

6:05 am on 15 October 2011

The United States says it will allow British company BP to bid on new oil-drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico less than two years after a devastating spill.

US offshore safety chief Michael Bromwich has told members of Congress his agency had determined that the oil giant should not be barred from obtaining new offshore drilling leases, AFP reports.

The Department of the Interior says production on the leases up for sale in December this year could reach 420 million barrels of oil and 2.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon rig in April 2010 killed 11 people and caused the biggest maritime oil spill in American history to date.

By the time the well was capped 87 days later, 4.9 million barrels of crude had gushed from it.

The US Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into the accident.

BP says it has so far paid out about $US7 billion in compensation claims arising from the oil spill.