Houston(Agency): British oil giant BP Plc intends to sell its giant Texas City sprawling 1,200-acre plant, where 15 people died in a 2005 explosion that became symbolic of safety deficiencies in its culture.

The company announced plans to sell the two refineries as part of a strategy to cut its US refining capacity in half and focus more on oil and gas exploration.

BP also will sell the electric power co-generation plant tied to the refinery but keep an adjacent chemical plant. It plans to focus on refining and marketing networks in the country based around the Whiting, Indiana and Cherry Point, Washington refineries and its 50 per cent share in the Toledo, Ohio plant.

They have "greater flexibility to refine a range of crude oils, including heavy grades, and on average are more diesel- capable than BP’s current portfolio," the company said.

The UK producer plans to sell USD 30 billion in assets by the end of the year to help to pay the costs of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst in the US. BP has so far disposed about USD 22 billion in assets, it said today in a separate statement.

Since March 23, 2005 blast, BP has spent more than USD, one billion in equipment upgrades, up to USD 2.1 billion to settle accident claims and more than USD 100 million in fines to safety and environmental regulators. The company may well be relieved to part with the plant.

"BP had a terrible reputation in Texas City," said Gary Beevers, vice president of the United Steelworkers, which represents about 1,200 union workers at the Texas City plant and 550 at the Carson, Calif, refinery that BP also plans to sell.

The company will use the estimated USD 5 billion it could get from selling the two refineries to pay down costs related to the massive Gulf oil spill.

The decision is also likely to further curtail BP's its once-mighty US oil trading operation after a prolonged downturn in global downstream profits.

The 4,75,000 barrels per day (bpd) Texas City plant --the country's third-largest-- could attract strong interest from buyers despite its history as one of the most dangerous refineries in the United States.

The 2005 explosion there injured at least 180 people in addition to killing 15, the deadliest US industrial accident in 20 years.

Analysts said potential bidders include Valero Energy Corp, which expressed interest more than two years ago, European independent refiner Petroplus and privately held PBF Energy, which has bought three US refineries in the past year.

In addition to the Texas City refinery, BP is putting its 265,000 bpd Carson, California plant on the block, and aims to complete the deals by the end of 2012.

BP's trading desk, once considered the biggest and best in the world, has been dramatically scaled back since former CEO John Browne stepped down in 2007.

For BP, the largest US oil producer and No. 4 US refiner, it's a chance to raise cash to pay for the disastrous 2010 Macondo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and shed the Texas City refinery, a target for safety critics.

Those two refineries could bring about USD 5 billion in total, according to analysts at Citi.