Transocean Ltd., which owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, has offered to pay about $1.5 billion to settle U.S. claims for the April 2010 deepwater disaster, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing on Monday.

The SEC filing did not indicate that a deal was close, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to comment on the status of any settlement talks.

"There are a number of issues that the parties would need to resolve in order to reach any settlement," the Transocean filing said. The Switzerland-based company, the world's largest offshore drilling contractor, said it has a $2 billion reserve for any Deepwater Horizon-related claims and it does not expect any additional incremental charges to earnings related to the settlement.

The DOJ in a recent court filing objected to BP's $7.8 billion preliminary settlement with the plaintiff's steering committee (PSC) to resolve court claims following the Macondo well blowout; BP was the majority owner of Macondo and operated the project (see Daily GPI, Sept. 6).

In a court brief filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, DOJ indicated that "BP did not act alone, by any means, and its gross negligence and willful misconduct are inextricably joined with the acts and omissions of Transocean. Nowhere is this more evidence [than] BP's and co-joined conduct of the negative pressure test, well monitoring, and well control in the final hours before the first explosion aboard the rig" (2:10-md-02179).

Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co.'s Joe Hill said he was using $3 billion in aggregate to determine Transocean's total liability, "based on what they have accrued so far, which is on the low end of the range of outcomes." Transocean could be liable for as much as $18 billion under the Clean Water Act, which holds all parties jointly and severally liable for damages if they are found to be grossly negligent, he said.

Transocean said in its SEC filing that it had not been in settlement talks with BP or the PSC since February.

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