BP chases Halliburton for all Gulf of Mexico costs

Almost two years since the Deepwater Horizon blow-out, and BP reckons it's all its contractor's fault.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 15 Nov 2012
It’s getting on for two years since the explosion which began the Deepwater Horizon disaster – the blast at BP’s Macondo well which killed 11 people and leaked 4m barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. But legal disputes are still raging, the latest being a claim by BP itself: the oil giant wants Halliburton, the contractor which made the well’s cement cap that exploded after the blow-out preventer failed, to stump up ‘the amount of costs and expenses incurred by BP to clean up and remediate the oil spill’ – ie. shoulder all of the costs BP’s incurred so far. Which, considering it’s spent $14bn (£9bn) and has set aside another $20bn for damages claims, is a big ask…

Given how deeply the blow-out etched itself into BP’s reputation, it might seem unreasonable of the company to ask one of its contractors to shoulder all of the costs (and thus, the blame) for the disaster. But actually, a report last year by a US commission which investigated the disaster came to the conclusion that BP, Halliburton and Transocean, the owner and operator of the rig, were all equally responsible. So it’s not unreasonable that BP should ask Halliburton to pay its fair share of the clean-up costs.

Then again, we’re not convinced BP’s demand that Halliburton take all the financial responsibility for the blow-out will hold much sway in court. After all, not only does that report share the blame among the oil giant and its two principal contractors, but BP has settled with four other companies involved already. Take Cameron International, for example, which manufactured the well’s dodgy blow-out preventer in the first place. Last month, it agreed to pay BP $250m for costs associated with the spill in an out-of-court settlement. Although it’s worth pointing out that in the grand scheme of things, that’s a pretty paltry sum – so presumably part of the reason BP’s gone for Halliburton is to try to get as much dosh as possible out of its exceptionally deep pockets.

The bad news is that even when this claim comes before court in February, it won’t be the last we hear of the in-fighting between companies about who’s to blame for the disaster. Not only does BP have a lawsuit with Transocean on the way, but the two contractors have launched their own independent claims. So expect the spectre of the Deepwater Horizon disaster to keep cropping up again and again for a long time to come.

Still: a bit of light relief from ex-BP CEO Tony Hayward (who lost his job following a series of not-very-diplomatic outbursts during the height of the disaster). Hayward has apparently decided to give his Farr 52 yacht, Bob, which he shares with Centrica CEO Sam Laidlaw and Deutsche Bank’s Rob Gray, to a charity which helps injured ex-servicemen sail. The yacht became the focus of the world’s media for a short while during the disaster, after Hayward was spotted relaxing on it shortly before he told US radio that he wanted his ‘life back’.

Sadly, Bob’s owners reckon its racing days have come to an end, and that the charity, Toe in the Water, can put it to better use. We wouldn’t dare suggest that the same can be said of Hayward’s career…

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