BP braces for trial over Gulf of Mexico oil spill

Almost three years after an explosion at explosion at BP's offshore oil rig in the US took a toll of 11 lives and resulted in the US' worst offshore oil spill, the UK company is facing a trial that could end up in it being slapped a fine of almost $20 billion. (£13 billion). The trial opens today in a courtroom in New Orleans.

Talks to reach a settlement have failed due to the complexity of the case as also the large number of stakeholders in the outcome.

According to David Uhlmann, the former top prosecutor for environmental crimes at the Department of Justice, they were not all or nothing propositions for either BP or the US government but billions of dollars were at stake.

The Department of Justice and the Gulf states, including Alabama and Lousiana, were reportedly working last night on a $16-billion settlement that would either delay or avoid the highly-anticipated trial (See: BP nears $16-bn settlement over Gulf of Mexico oil spill: report).

According to analysts, the trial would be in two parts, with the first focused on apportioning blame for the spill between BP, Transocean – which owned the Deepwater Horizon rig – and Halliburton, which cemented the Macondo well. Although BP has said it was prepared to settle on "reasonable terms", the company is now taking a more aggressive stand saying the claims against it were "excessive."

BP would also seek to convince US district judge Carl Barbier, who would be sitting without a jury, that it was not guilty of gross negligence.