BP delays start of Libyan drilling until next year

British energy giant BP said Friday it was delaying the start of deep-water exploration drilling off the Libyan coast until next year.

"We had always planned to drill when we are ready to, so that will be done next year", a BP spokesman told AFP.

The Financial Times newspaper on Friday said the delay was because BP had decided not use its original drilling rig for operational reasons.

It added that BP remained in the process of ensuring any safety lessons learned from its Gulf of Mexico spill earlier this year had been fully implemented.

BP had announced in July that it would start drilling off the Libyan coast before the end of 2010.

A 2007 accord with Tripoli allows BP to drill five wells in the Gulf of Sirte at depths of around 1,700 metres (5,500 feet), slightly deeper than the ruptured Gulf of Mexico well.

The worst US environmental disaster on record prompted Washington to impose a moratorium on deep-water drilling while BP has said it has learned its lessons from the Gulf of Mexico disaster so as to avoid any repetition.

The Libyan deal has also come under a lot of US criticism, with many suspecting BP's role in the release on compassionate grounds of Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, who was convicted of blowing up a US airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, killing 270 people.

The Scottish government decided to release him from prison last year on compassionate grounds because he was thought to have only a few months to live due to his terminal prostate cancer. Megrahi is still alive in Libya.

Source AFP