BP has accused Halliburton of having “intentionally destroyed evidence” related to the explosion aboard the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that led to the worst oil spill in U.S. history. BP made this accusation in pleadings filed by the company in federal court in New Orleans. The filing was in the lawsuit aimed at having sanctions imposed on Halliburton Energy Services Inc., which, as has been widely reported, was a contractor for BP on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. We must not allow the passage of time to make us forget that the explosion and spill led to more than 200 million gallons of oil being released into the Gulf. This disaster has caused tremendous damage to thousands of individuals and business owners as well as environmental damage that will be with us for many years.
BP alleged that Halliburton destroyed evidence on cement testing and violated court orders by not bringing forth “inexplicably missing” computer modeling results. The oil giant, in a renewed attack on Halliburton, stated:
Halliburton has steadfastly refused to provide these critical testing and modeling results in discovery. Halliburton’s refusal has been unwavering, despite repeated BP discovery requests and a specific order from this Court. BP has now learned the reason for Halliburton’s intransigence — Halliburton destroyed the results of physical slurry testing, and it has, at best, lost the computer modeling outputs that showed no channeling. More egregious still, Halliburton intentionally destroyed the evidence related to its nonprivileged cement testing, in part because it wanted to eliminate any risk that this evidence would be used against it at trial.
BP stated in its pleadings that two Halliburton employees testified under oath about destroying notes and samples related to analyzing the stability of a similar cement mixture that was used in the failed oil well. One of the witnesses was Ricky Morgan, Halliburton Global Advisor in Gulf Cementing. BP is attempting to have a “third-party specialist” examine a Halliburton computer, claiming “such an examination might well recover the missing modeling results, or shed light on the circumstances of their apparent disappearance.”
BP and its two contractors — Halliburton and Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon rig where the explosion occurred — have been pointing fingers at each other in legal battles and in the media for months, attempting to shift blame. But remember, in September the final federal report on the spill said BP, Transocean and Halliburton all share responsibility for the deadly explosion and ensuing oil spill. The three companies “violated a number of federal offshore safety regulations,” according to the report, which was issued by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.
The report concluded that a key cause of the explosion was a faulty cement drilling barrier at the well site. It was stated in the report that “(t)he precise reasons for the failure of the production casing cement job are not known.” The report stated further that the disaster was “the result of poor risk management, last minute changes to plans, failure to observe and respond to critical indicators, inadequate well control response, and insufficient emergency bridge response training by companies and individuals responsible for drilling” at the site.
BP was “ultimately responsible” for operations at the site “in a way that ensured the safety and protection of personnel, equipment, natural resources, and the environment,” the report concluded. But Transocean, as owner of the rig, also was “responsible for conducting safe operations and for protecting personnel onboard.” Meanwhile, Halliburton — as a BP contractor — was “responsible for conducting the cement job, and … had certain responsibilities for monitoring the well,” the report said.
You may recall that a spokesman for BP said in September that the company agreed with the report’s conclusion. Scott Dean, a BP employee, observed that: “(t)he Deepwater Horizon accident was the result of multiple causes, involving multiple parties, including Transocean and Halliburton.” Interestingly, Dean also said that BP “acknowledged its role in the accident” and the agency took “concrete steps to further enhance safety.”
In response to the report, Halliburton has continued to deny any responsibility for the tragedy. Zelma Branch, a Halliburton spokeswoman, said the report “incorrectly attributes the operation decisions to Halliburton.” In that response, she stated that:
Every contributing cause where Halliburton is named, the operational responsibility lies solely with BP. Halliburton takes the position that all the work it performed with respect to the well was completed in accordance with BP’s specifications for its well construction plan and instructions.
Contrary to BP’s assertions, Halliburton said the post-incident testing referred to in its motion was not conducted on rig samples. Rather, it says the informal testing BP refers to in its motion used off-the-shelf materials that yielded results that Halliburton believes have little or no relevance to the case. Halliburton said testing before the blow-out using rig samples and formal lab processes showed that the cement slurry was designed to be stable, a finding it claims is backed up by testing done by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
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