A new lawsuit lodged against BP claims the oil giant manipulated crude oil prices by refusing to allow traders access to U.S. storage facilities, according to documents filed in federal court on Tuesday.
The suit, filed in the Southern District of New York by oil futures trader Richard Hershey of St. Louis Missouri, said he suffered damages caused by BP's refusal to open its storage facilities at Cushing, Oklahoma between January 2003 and December 2004.
BP abused its dominant market position by not making available space at its crude oil storage facilities in Cushing to market participants who were obligated to deliver crude oil at Cushing, the complaint said.
That behaviour forced crude oil futures prices on the NYMEX to trade at prices higher or lower than otherwise would have prevailed absent BP's conduct, according to the court filing.
According to the suit, BP owned or controlled about 30 percent of the crude oil storage facilities in Cushing, a key transportation hub that is the delivery point for the NYMEX light, sweet crude oil futures contract.
A spokesman for BP said he had not yet seen the lawsuit and could not comment.
The lawsuit, which is seeking class action status, comes in the wake of a shareholder lawsuit filed last month that accused BP of hurting investors by failing to repair a pipeline that forced the shutdown part of the Prudhoe Bay oilfield in Alaska.
BP shut down part of that field's 400,000 barrels per day of output after inspectors discovered severe corrosion inside a segment of the eastern oil transit line.