French oil major Total (TOTF.PA) has admitted safety breaches and to polluting ground water, in connection with an explosion at a fuel depot in England in 2005.

France's largest listed company said it entered pleas of guilty at a hearing on Friday, to charges brought by regulators the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency (EA).

Total UK regrets the unfortunate events at Buncefield in December 2005 and would like to apologise to all those affected by the incident, the company said in a statement on Friday.

The HSE was unavailable for comment and the EA declined immediate comment.

The blast at Buncefield in December 2005 caused widespread damage over a 450-metre area of Hertfordshire, north of London, and injured 43 people.

It was caused by the ignition of a huge vapour cloud, formed from the spillage of 300 tonnes of petrol from the top of one of the storage tanks.

Total failed to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of employees and the public, while caused fuel and firewater chemicals to enter ground waters in the chalk aquifer underlying the vicinity of Buncefield, the charges said.

In March, the British High Court ruled Total was solely liable for thousands of claims arising from the blast.

The company could face claims of more than 750 million pounds ($1.09 billion) for damage to property caused by what was described by the media as Britain's biggest peacetime explosion. U.S. oil major Chevron (CVX.N) had a minority stake in the Buncefield depot.