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Sell-offs point to BP shift away from US

BP signalled a shift away from the US today as it revealed plans to put two key refineries up for sale - including the site of a fatal explosion.

The oil giant said the sale of its refinery in Texas City and at Carson, near Los Angeles, California, will halve the firm's refining capacity in the US and forms part of a strategic overhaul of its downstream business.

But BP committed to investing in its remaining refining and marketing networks in the country, which include sites in Indiana, Washington and Ohio.

The move away from the US follows a deal with Russia's state-controlled oil firm Rosneft, although this will see the two companies work together on upstream operations, namely exploration of the Russian Arctic continental shelf.

Iain Conn, BP chief executive of refining and marketing, said: "The US remains a very important market for BP's fuels, lubricants and petrochemicals businesses and the moves we have announced today will give BP a smaller, but well-positioned and very competitive portfolio of refining and marketing businesses."

The 1,200-acre Texas City Refinery, which has a capacity of 475,000 barrels a day, was the scene of a devastating fire and explosion nearly six years ago which killed 15 workers and injured 170 others.

The refinery, the third largest in the US, which employs some 2,200 BP staff, was subject to an inquiry by the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, which found BP had failed to heed safety recommendations before the blast.

BP has paid nearly $137m (€100m) in fines since the incident and has invested more than $1bn (€726m) in the plant in the last few years.

The smaller 630-acre Carson refinery has a capacity of 265,000 barrels a day and supplies some 25pc of fuel to LA. It employs some 1,200 staff and 500 contractors.

BP said it hopes to complete the sale of the two refineries by the end of 2012.

The company is in the process of carrying out a number of investments in its other US refineries, including a programme to transform its refinery in Whiting, Indiana, and upgrades at its Cherry Point and Toledo refineries, in Washington and Ohio respectively.

In its full-year results, BP revealed its refining margins had improved in all but its US Midwest region.

The firm said it would concentrate on growth opportunities in developing and emerging markets for its downstream business.

BP also said it plans to increase significantly its investment in exploration and to focus its upstream business on significant opportunities in key oil and gas basins.

PA Media