Halliburton admits destroying Gulf evidence

The US-based BP contractor will have to cough-up a maximum fine of $200,000 for its part in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

by Gabriella Griffith
Last Updated: 26 Jul 2013
More than three years after it began, the Deepwater Horizon saga continues apace, after Halliburton Energy Services said it will plead guilty to destroying evidence to do with the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

One count of destruction of evidence has been filed in federal court and Halliburton has agreed to pay ‘the maximum fine’ of $200,000 (£130,000). This sum will be in addition to the $55m contribution the Houston-based cement contractor has already paid out to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The oil spill at BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico followed an explosion at the company’s Deepwater Horizon rig, which killed 11 people. Halliburton was BP’s cement contractor at the time and both companies have blamed each other for the failed seal on the well, which leaked millions of gallon of oil into the Gulf.

Here’s the crux: Halliburton had advised BP to use 21 centralisers in the well, but the British energy giant decided to use six. Halliburton had been hoping to use this evidence to prove BP’s liability - but 3D simulations proved there was little difference between using six and 21 centralisers, thereby ruining Halliburton’s argument. A programme manager for Halliburton ‘was directed to, and did, destroy these results’, federal officials said.

Halliburton has agreed to remain under probation for three years and cooperate with the rest of the investigation as it rumbles on.

Of course, Halliburton's guilty plea hasn’t got BP off the hook: last November the energy company agreed to a $4.5bn settlement with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) over criminal charges related to the case. A third company, Transocean, the owner of the oilrig that exploded, also agreed to pay $1.4bn to the DoJ.

But the issue is far from over: the parties involved are also facing a civil trial over the accident, which is hoped will determine the cause of the disaster and who is responsible for what.

With the fines mounting, BP is haemorrhaging money as fast as it did oil. In May it asked David Cameron to intervene over the escalating cost of compensating US companies and individuals over the spill. It claimed the $7.8bn it put aside to pay for damages wouldn’t be enough and that the claim system in the States was being abused, awarding compensation to companies who didn’t necessarily experience a loss thanks to the spill.

Meanwhile, Halliburton’s admission of guilt is thought to signal a willingness to settle – it’s not surprising the contractor is keen to put the incident behind it as quickly as possible.

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