updated 9/18/2006 1:48:22 PM ET 2006-09-18T17:48:22

BP PLC said Monday the start of production at its Thunder Horse oil and gas platform in the Gulf of Mexico has been delayed until at least mid-2008 after tests showed safety failures.

BP said it plans to replace all subsea components of the platform, which was left listing when Hurricane Dennis passed through the Gulf in July 2005, over the next year.

The company said it was too early to estimate the additional costs of replacing the components at the $1 billion platform, located around 150 miles east of New Orleans.

The platform is the largest in the Gulf and is expected to eventually produce about 240,000 barrels of oil and 200 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.

BP said that tests carried out over the past four months revealed metallurgical failure in components of the subsea system. The company said the problem became evident when it pumped water through the system.

“The equipment passed all the normal industry standard tests and regulatory requirements,” BP said in a statement. “But when the company carried out more prolonged and rigorous testing, as an additional safety precaution, a failure occurred on a subsea weld.”

It is the second time that BP has announced delays to the start of production at Thunder Horse, which has yet to produce any oil or gas since the field was discovered in 1999. The company announced in July when reporting a 30 percent increase in second quarter profit that the platform would begin production early next year, instead of the second half of this year.

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