US judge accuses BP of gas market rigging

© Luke MacGregor
BP is facing millions of dollars in fines after an American judge has ruled the British oil major manipulated US gas markets in the aftermath of a hurricane in 2008.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) judge Carmen Cintron says BP artificially dumped gas prices at a Houston hub in 2008 to make a profit.

“The evidence in this case shows that the Texas team had hundreds of affirmative acts in furtherance of the manipulative scheme during the investigative period,” Bloomberg quotes her as saying.

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According to the judge, after hurricane Ike made landfall in September 2008, the price of natural gas dropped to a sharp discount to the benchmark.

This was an “economic windfall” for BP, Cintron said.

The full FERC five-member commission will issue a final ruling for the case, including a financial penalty. Cintron said she would ask for a $48 million fine, even though the company made less than $250,000 in profits.

BP denied the allegations, saying the company is innocent and will appeal the decision to the full energy commission.

“As the leading marketer of natural gas in North America, BP is committed to adhering to the highest ethical standards, conducting all trading in compliance with all laws and regulations, and maintaining a strong control and compliance environment,” the company said.

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The ruling marks a continuation of problems for BP on the US market. In July, the oil major agreed on a $18.7 billion payout to settle the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.