Profits down at BP

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The Independent Online

The troubles at oil giant BP were laid bare today when it posted falling third-quarter profits.

BP said it made 6.23 billion US dollars (£3.33 billion) in the three months to September 30 compared with 6.46 billion US dollars (£3.45 billion) a year earlier.

It came as the company was hit by problems at its Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska and delays to the opening of the key Thunder Horse platform in the Gulf of Mexico.

The London-based firm pumped 3.8 million barrels of oil a day out of the ground between July and September.

That was 8,000 barrels a day less than a year ago when production was devastated by hurricanes which battered its rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

It was also 202,000 barrels below the level reached in the second quarter of this year and underlined the problems facing BP and its chief executive Lord Browne.

The fall in output came after BP was forced to shut operations at its large Prudhoe Bay oil field over safety fears.

BP's Prudhoe Bay oilfield, the largest in the US, was partially closed in August after corrosion was found in pipelines. It followed a massive oil spill in which 270,000 gallons of crude leaked into the Alaskan bay.

BP was recently forced to put back the reopening of Thunder Horse from 2007 to the middle of 2008 after it was damaged by Hurricane Dennis last year.

The platform is the largest in the Gulf and is expected to produce about 240,000 barrels of oil and 200 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.

The company is also embroiled in an investigation into a fire at its Texas City refinery which killed 15 workers last year.

A further investigation is looking into allegations of manipulation of crude oil and petrol markets and propane prices.

The problems have seen shares in the company fall more than 15% since April, putting Lord Browne under increasing pressure as investors question the safety of BP's operations.

The profits figure was only marginally below the third quarter last year because the cost of crude remained high at 69.60 US dollars a barrel - one cent higher than in the second quarter and around eight US dollars higher than a year ago.