BP has been given permission to restart deep drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, one year after the Deepwater Horizon explosion killed 11 workers and caused the worst oil spill in history. The group plants to drill 10 existing wells from this summer, following a deal with US regulators to continue work halted by a moratorium imposed after 200 million gallons of oil were leaked into the Gulf.
The plans, which have angered environmentalists, are a coup for Bob Dudley, BP's new American chief executive, who replaced Tony Hayward after he was criticised for his handling of the crisis.
Meanwhile Transocean, the world's largest offshore rig company – which leased the Deepwater Horizon rig to BP – has awarded "safety" bonuses to senior executives for achieving "the best year in safety performance in our company's history", in spite of the disaster. Nine of the workers killed were Transocean employees.
"Notwithstanding the tragic loss of life in the Gulf of Mexico, we achieved an exemplary statistical safety record as measured by our total recordable incident rate and total potential severity rate," Transocean said.
"As measured by these standards, we recorded the best year in safety performance in our company's history, which is a reflection on our commitment to achieving an incident-free environment, all the time, everywhere."
BP is spending £25.4bn cleaning up the spill and paying damages. US prosecutors were last week reportedly considering pursuing manslaughter charges against its managers. BP confirmed it had pledged to meet strict safety standards as part of negotiations to resume drilling. It has also agreed to allow 24-hour access to the US government. The permission only allows BP to maintain or increase production on existing wells. But the British company may seek approval to start exploratory drilling later in the year. A presidential commission concluded the explosion had been caused by cost-cutting and directly blamed Transocean, BP and Halliburton.