BP reports first major Gulf of Mexico discovery since oil spill


BP PLC said Wednesday (Dec. 18) that it has hit oil at a key exploration well in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, its first major oil discovery since the 2010 oil spill and a capstone on what it called its "most successful year for new field exploration" in this decade. The discovery, known as Gila, is located in the Keathley Canyon field of the Gulf about 300 miles southwest of New Orleans. The well, which BP co-owns with ConocoPhillips, is the company's third oil find in the last seven years targeting a Paleogene-era layer of sand more than 25,000 feet under the ocean floor. "The Gila discovery is a further sign that momentum is returning to BP's drilling operations and well execution in the Gulf of Mexico," Richard Morrison, regional president of BP's Gulf of Mexico business, said in a statement. BP has invested more than $55 billion in the U.S. over the past five years while, more recently, facing criminal and civil charges related to the 2010 Gulf oil spill. In November 2012, BP agreed to a $4.5 billion settlement and pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the deaths of 11 workers during the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and making false statements to Congress. Meanwhile, a multi-billion-dollar civil damages trial of BP and its drilling partners is ongoing. The second phase, which focused on how to measure the millions of barrels released into the Gulf, ended in October. The penalty phase, expected some time next year, will focus on how many billions BP will have to pay in fines over the disaster. On Wednesday, BP highlighted the Gila discovery alongside two new discoveries off the coast of Brazil as signs the company's momentum will continue moving into 2014. The company completed 15 new exploration wells worldwide in 2013 resulting in seven discoveries that could be brought into production. It's still unclear whether BP will be able to participate in the March 2014 federal lease sale in the central Gulf of Mexico, however. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suspended the company from receiving new federal contracts in late 2012 as a result of the 2010 oil spill. BP filed a lawsuit in a Houston federal district court in August arguing that the suspension is an abuse of the EPA's discretion. Last week, the British government and several business advocacy groups filed their support for BP in the case.



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