by Matthew Smith
Unsurprisingly BP (BP) is still dealing with the enormous repercussions of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill that happened more than two years ago.
As far as the ongoing court cases are concerned, BP is, as far as I can see, fighting a losing battle. Most recently, it made an application to receive access to 21 emails and other documents sent by the White House and other officials in relation to the events that took place in the Gulf of Mexico. However, the judge overseeing the case denied this access. Exactly how these emails would have helped the BP case is unclear at this point, but clearly the judge felt that the oil and gas company's need to defend itself came secondary to the government's need to keep the documents confidential and the public interest in ensuring that a similar disaster does not occur again in the future. In a way, the mystery is interesting and it would be intriguing to find out exactly what those documents have in them. However, this is merely idle speculation as these documents will not feature in the case against BP, which is the main concern of investors at present.
BP is still waiting on court approval for the settlement that it reached a few months ago with a number of the plaintiffs involved. I hope for the sake of stock holders that this event can soon be put behind the company and that it will be allowed to move on.
In total, BP hopes to pay no more than $15 billion to "settle all criminal and civil penalties with US authorities" in relation to the major oil spill. I'm not convinced that the company will be able to get away with such a low fine. The Department of Justice is looking to take about $25 billion from the oil and gas company and, at this point, I'm not sure how BP plans to pay any less than this. The two entities, namely BP and the Department of Justice, hope to reach an agreement by September this year. However, this may prove to be a little harder than anticipated specially considering the huge gap between what each party expects the final amount to be.
In addition to these charges, BP faces charges form the US government in terms of the Clean Water Act and other laws. Claims from Gulf States as well as the company's drilling partners are also still to be resolved. The total amount of money that BP has set aside to cover all of the costs that may arise from the oil spill is only $37.2 billion. The trial to "apportion blame and damages for the disaster" will only begin at the beginning of next year. Considering how much still needs to be resolved, it could be years before BP can put all of this behind it.
Occidental Petroleum (OXY) and Magellan Midstream (MMP) recently announced that they will jointly assess the viability of creating a pipeline from Colorado City, Texas to the Houston Gulf Coast area. The proposed project is called the Bridge Tex Pipeline and the two companies will work together on it, sharing commercial responsibilities. Interested customers can take advantage of the open season that has been proposed and must submit binding agreements no later than the 11th of July this year. This pipeline, should it be approved, will be a major step forward for Occidental Petroleum.
Exxon Mobil (XOM) recently released a free iPad app that keeps you up to date on Exxon news and stock information and gives you a look at the company's predictions for the oil and gas industry by the year 2040. I think that this is notable in that it is a sign that Exxon knows what needs to be done to keep up with the current consumer market. People are becoming increasingly more technologically advanced, and it is those companies that keep up with the technology that will stay on the mind of consumers.
Competitor Chevron (CVX) also knows how to move forward, but in this case it is in relation to power sources. Reports say that Chevron will build a geothermal power plant in the Philippines. This will be done in collaboration with APC group. However there are a number of things that will first have to happen before this plant is finalized. For one Chevron will have to validate that there are in fact steam energy resources in the area before the deal can be finalized. However, as far as I am concerned, power sources such as this mark the way forward for humanity, and Chevron is sensible in that it is taking the lead in this regard.
Compared to its competitors, BP just is not keeping up. It seems that the company has to focus far too intensely on the situation surrounding the oil spill and cannot, therefore, focus its energy where investors want to see it focused: on new innovations and discoveries. BP needs to find a way to move on from the disaster, and soon, if it is to continue being a significant presence in the oil and gas arena.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.