BP 'close to deal' on Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill

Fire tugs surround the Deepwater Horizon oil rig (22 April 2010) The Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in April 2010

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A partial settlement of claims against BP for the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in the US is very close, sources have told the BBC.

The agreement would be between BP and individuals and companies seeking compensation. BP is yet to comment.

One lawyer told the BBC a deal between BP and US federal and state governments was not close, and talks had halted.

The drilling rig exploded in April 2010 killing 11 men and spilling millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

BP has so far paid $7.5bn in clean-up costs and compensation.

The start of a civil trial to resolve claims for damages and civil penalties was delayed last week to allow more time for negotiations.

BP and its partners face the threat of tens of billions of dollars in fines and penalties if found grossly negligent in the case.

'Worst environmental disaster'

The UK firm is expected to blame its main contactor, Halliburton, which is a fellow defendant.

US Attorney General Eric Holder told a House of Representatives committee on Tuesday that the US government "was prepared to go to trial" over the claims if they did not result in a settlement.

US President Barack Obama called the spill "the worst environmental disaster the nation has ever faced".

It took 85 days to permanently stop the release of crude oil.

Fellow contractor Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig, is also a defendant in the case.

Judge Carl Barbier, an expert in maritime law, consolidated hundreds of spill-related lawsuits into a single case.

He is tasked with determining how much of the blame rests with each party and whether punitive damages should be imposed.

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