UPDATE 3-BP challenges Halliburton court request on spill

Tue Jan 3, 2012 10:35am EST

By Tom Bergin and Greg Roumeliotis

LONDON/NEW YORK Jan 3 (Reuters) - BP has opened 2012 with a new legal move in its battle to force contractor Halliburton to help pay the costs and expenses it incurred to clean up the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which the oil major previously put at around $42 billion.

Halliburton, the company that cemented the doomed well, had asked a court to force BP to recognise a contractual agreement that protected Halliburton against possible spill clean-up costs.

In response, BP asked a court in a filing on Monday not to give a summary judgment on that request -- one that would hand down a ruling without a full trial being held and could let Halliburton off the hook for a share of the total spill costs.

BP restated a claim against Halliburton, first made in an April 2011 filing, that Halliburton should pay it damages "equal to, or in the alternative proportional to Halliburton's fault," to cover clean up costs and government fines BP might faces.

Halliburton officials were not immediately available for comment. BP declined comment.

BP shares traded up 2.2 percent at 1520 GMT, ahead of a 1.5 percent rise in the STOXX Europe 600 Oil and Gas index.

Its filing comes ahead of hearings on a collection of lawsuits, which are set to begin in New Orleans on February 27.

The 'multi-district litigation' is expected to decide who will compensate those hurt by the spill, the extent of government fines and who will be remembered as the negligent party.

BP has said it is ready to settle with its contractors, the parties who have suffered property and other damage, and the government, but not at any cost.

Company sources told Reuters the company expects that if it does manage to cut a settlement of the cases, it will represent one of the largest legal settlements in U.S. corporate history.

The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in April 2010, which killed 11 workers and spewed more than 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf, has sparked a slew of lawsuits and federal citations against the companies involved.

BP had been paying the costs of the response effort alone but Europe's second-largest oil group by market value has now cut deals with its two partners in the doomed Macondo well, Anadarko and Mitsui.

The two companies at first refuted their responsibility to contribute to oil spill bill, citing BP's negligence.

Last month, Cameron International Corp, which made the blowout preventer that failed to seal off the blown-out well, agreed a $250 million settlement with BP to help pay for costs associated with the spill.

Settlement agreements with two remaining parties, Halliburton and Transocean, have to date proved elusive.

Transocean, the owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon rig, and Halliburton, which supplied cement to cap the well, are both being sued by BP to share the cost of the spill and cleanup, while the two have launched lawsuits of their own.

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