BP PLC said it would delay its plans to drill offshore Libya, citing a decision not to use its original drill rig for “operational reasons.”

“We are changing the rig,” a company spokeswoman told Dow Jones Newswires.
“Current plans are to begin drilling onshore and offshore in 2011.”

Libya’s top oil official previously said BP was expected to begin drilling in last November 2010.

BP is due to drill at least five wells in the Gulf of Sirte, at depths greater than the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, which has raised worries about a similar ecological disaster.

The company is changing rigs from one owned by Noble Corp. (NE) to a new one, currently being prepared in the Gulf of Mexico, which is owned by Pride International Inc. (PDE).

“We have been using what we learnt in the Gulf of Mexico to ensure operations are safe and sometimes delays can happen,” the company said.

BP declined to provide further details on why it is changing rig providers.
Noble in September said it initiated arbitration proceedings in connection with the Noble Homer Ferrington rig, which is the one BP originally planned to use offshore Libya and was previously used by Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM).

The rig provider said in a filing the proceedings were due to a “dispute with our customer.”
Libya is already a major oil producer, but the bulk comes from onshore or shallow-water facilities.