BP will fund the research program to examine topics including: how the oil, dispersed oil and the dispersant behave on the seabed, in the water column, on the surface and on the shoreline and their impact on the biota of the seabed.

It will also study the ways to detect oil, dispersed oil, and dispersant on the seabed, in the water column, and on the surface; and ways to improve technology for remediating the impact of oil accidentally released to the ocean.

Tony Hayward, chief executive of BP, said: “BP has made a commitment to doing everything we can to lessen the impact of this tragic incident on the people and environment of the GulfCoast. We must make every effort to understand that impact.

“This will be a key part of the process of restoration and for improving the industry response capability for the future. There is an urgent need to ensure that the scientific community has access to the samples and the raw data it needs to begin this work.”

BP already has ongoing marine research programs in the Gulf of Mexico. Building on these, the company will appoint an independent advisory panel to construct the long term research program.

Where appropriate, the studies may be coordinated with the ongoing natural resources damages assessment, BP said.