27/02/2012 04:48 GMT | Updated 27/04/2012 06:12 BST

Deepwater Horizon Disaster: BP Close To £8bn Settlement With Oil Spill Victims

BP is close to concluding a multi-billion dollar settlement over the impact of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

A trial over brought by around 120,000 individuals and businesses to prove BP's responsibility for the drilling rig explosion and ensuing oil spill has been delayed by a week to give the company more time to reach a settlement.

The Deepwater Horizon explosion killed 11 people and the resultant oil spill lasted for 87 days, with disastrous consequences for thousands of miles of coastline.

Around 5bn barrels of oil from the Macondo well were lost in the spill, thought to be among the worst environmental disasters in American history.

The civil trial over the disaster was due to begin in New Orleans on Monday but has been put back until at least 5 March to give BP more time to reach a settlement.

BP and the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee (PSC) said in a joint statement:

"This adjournment is intended to allow BP and the PSC more time to continue settlement discussions and attempt to reach an agreement."

It is thought the eventual settlement, if reached, could be worth up to £8.8bn, though BP has not commented on the scale of the deal.

The company did not guarantee a settlement, but it is thought the trial would not have been delayed unless a deal was close.

Settling would save BP money on further fines.

Local businesses in New Orleans have reported a boom in business as they welcome the massive teams of lawyers and other staff in town for the trial, The Guardian noted.

But the case is just one in a complex series of legal battles over the disaster, which also include suits and counter-suits between BP and Halliburton and Transocean, as well as the US government.

BP has said that its total costs for deal with the disaster and its aftermath might reach up to £27.1bn.

The company has already paid around $6.1bn in compensation to around 200,000 claimants through the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, according to the Wall St Journal.