BP to Delay Libya Offshore Drilling

LONDON (Dow Jones)

BP PLC (BP.LN) on Friday said it will delay its plans to drill offshore Libya until next year, citing a decision not to use its original drill rig for "operational reasons."

"We're changing the rig," a company spokeswoman told Dow Jones Newswires. "Current plans are to begin drilling onshore and offshore in 2011."

Libya's top oil official previously said BP was expected to begin drilling last month.

BP is due to drill at least five wells in the Gulf of Sirte, at depths greater than the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, which has raised worries about a similar ecological disaster.

The company is changing rigs from one owned by Noble Corp. (NE) to a new one, currently being prepared in the Gulf of Mexico, which is owned by Pride International Inc. (PDE).

"We've been using what we learnt in the Gulf of Mexico to ensure operations are safe and sometimes delays can happen," the company said.

BP declined to provide further details on why it's changing rig providers.

Noble in September said it initiated arbitration proceedings in connection with the Noble Homer Ferrington rig, which is the one BP originally planned to use offshore Libya and was previously used by Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM).

The rig provider said in a filing the proceedings were due to a "dispute with our customer."

Noble wasn't immediately available to comment.

Libya is already a major oil producer, but the bulk comes from onshore or shallow-water facilities.

Copyright (c) 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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