The oil giant wants credit for capturing the oil before it could do any damage and has asked a US judge to acknowledge the success. Under environmental legislation, BP could be liable for a fine of up to $3.4bn (£2.1bn) if the 810,000 barrels are judged to have caused marine pollution.

BP is facing a potential fine of more than $20bn for the 4.9m barrels that gushed from its deep water well in 2010, although the company has estimated the cost of resolving the claims at $7.8bn. The US government has admitted that roughly 833,000 barrels were “recovered” during the spill response.

In the court filing, BP asked the government not to overestimate the size of the spill. “The oil BP successfully captured without it entering the Gulf of Mexico waters should not be considered in the court’s determination of Clean Water Act civil penalties,” a BP spokesman said.

Under the US Clean Water Act, polluters face a penalty of $1,100 to $4,300 per barrel of oil, depending on whether the polluter acted in a grossly negligent or reckless manner.

BP’s trial to determine liability begins on February 25.