Two Texas groups are among the first to get grants from British Petroleum's Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative to study how last year’s massive oil spill affected the Gulf of Mexico environment, and develop better methods of responding to future spills.

The initiative awarded a total $112.5 million to eight research teams, including one from the University of Texas at Austin’s Marine Science Institute and another from Texas A&M University at College Station.

BP has committed $500 million over ten years for independent research projects on the Macondo well blowout that sent oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months.

Collectively, the projects will investigate the impact of oil and other substances on the marine environment and coastal communities.

The Texas A&M group is studying oil spill response, while the UT Austin team will study its environmental impact.

A BP executive says information from the research will be used restore the Gulf of Mexico and improve its long-term health.

via Fuel Fix » BP funds Texas researchers for Gulf oil spill study.

The other teams getting spill research funds are at Florida State University, Tulane University, University of South Florida, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, University of Miami and University of Mississippi.

Meanwhile, the fund BP set up to compensate victims of the oil spill has, so far, paid more than $5 billion in claims.

The fund administrator --Washington D.C. lawyer Kenneth Feinberg -- says the Gulf Coast Claims office received 947,892 claims from all 50 states and 36 foreign counties.

Feinberg says 359,441 claims have been paid and 430,000 have been denied.  Some are pending. Others are still coming in.