By Jonathan Davies

US regulators have found BP guilty of "gross negligence" in the lead-up to the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The New Orleans judge Carl Barbier also found BP subcontractors Transocean and Halliburton "negligent".

It means BP could face even more payments over the disaster, and they are likely to reach tens of billions of pounds. It has already set aside £26bn to cover fines, legal settlements, compensation and clean-up costs.

Under the US Clean Water Act, a negligence ruling would have meant BP was liable to pay $1,100 per barrel of oil spilled; gross negligence increases the penalty to $4,300 per barrel.

The question now is how many barrels were spilled? That will determine how much BP will pay.

BP said it will contest the ruling, saying it "strongly disagrees" with it, in a statement.

"The law is clear that proving gross negligence is a very high bar that was not met in this case," said the firm.

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