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BP faces fines of pounds 200m in civil and criminal cases; OIL.

Oil major BP faces fines approaching pounds 200 million to settle civil and criminal probes related to market manipulation charges and a Texas refinery explosion that killed 15 workers in 2005, sources claimed yesterday.

It is said the company will pay pounds 151.5 million to meet civil charges that it tried to manipulate propane prices in the United States by cornering the market in February 2004.

The world's third-largest non-government controlled oil company by market capitalisation is also close to a deal on charges that it was criminally indifferent to worker safety, contributing to the Texas blast, it is thought.

BP, it is alleged, has agreed to plead guilty to criminal environmental charges and pay pounds 25 million to settle a US federal investigation into the deadly 2005 explosion.

Safety regulators said cost cuts were partly to blame for the Texas City blast.

BP declined to comment on the cases.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission also refused to comment on a settlement of the market manipulation charges it has brought.

BP chief executive Tony Hayward earlier this month announced a restructuring which he hopes will address some of the company's problems.

These have included the fatal explosion, the market manipulation charges, delays in bringing big new fields on line and pipeline leaks.

Yesterday BP announced plans to cut more than 350 jobs at its North Sea headquarters.

The posts are under threat at the company's Aberdeen base following a fall in production levels and rising costs.

A BP spokesman said the situation was "regrettable" but necessary to secure its long-term future in the North Sea.

The 350 positions are out of a total onshore staff and contractor workforce of 2,100. The job cuts are expected to be made by March.

BP said 250 of the affected jobs were onshore office-based staff. The remaining 100 were onshore contractors.

The Aberdeen HQ will bear the brunt of the cuts.

Graham Tran, regional officer with the Amicus union, said: "We did expect job losses but clearly nothing on this scale."
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 25, 2007
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