US oil spill firm admits destroying evidence

Friday 26 July 2013 16.01
US engineering giant Halliburton admits destroying evidence over Deepwater Horizon disaster
US engineering giant Halliburton admits destroying evidence over Deepwater Horizon disaster

A leading US engineering company has agreed to plead guilty to destroying evidence connected to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, according to the US Department of Justice.

Halliburton was BP's cement contractor on the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf in April that year.

The blowout triggered an explosion killing 11 workers and the worst offshore oil spill in US history.

The company carried out experiments in May 2010 as part of the investigation into the disaster, but a programme manager "was directed to, and did, destroy these results," federal officials say.

Similar evidence was also destroyed a month later.

Halliburton is to pay the maximum fine of $200,000 for the offence and will be on probation for three years while continuing to help with the ongoing criminal investigation.

The Houston-based company has also separately made a $55m voluntary contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The company said in a statement that it had agreed to plead guilty "to one misdemeanor violation associated with the deletion of records created after the Macondo well incident".

The US Justice Department has agreed it will not pursue further criminal prosecution of the company or its subsidiaries for any conduct arising from the 2010 spill, Halliburton said.

Federal officials have also "acknowledged the company's significant and valuable cooperation during the course of its investigation", according to the company.

Court approval will be required for the deal between the firm and prosecutors.

"Efforts to forensically recover the original destroyed Displace 3D computer simulations during ensuing civil litigation and federal criminal investigation by the Deepwater Horizon Task Force were unsuccessful," federal officials said in a news release.

"In agreeing to plead guilty, Halliburton has accepted criminal responsibility for destroying the aforementioned evidence," they added.

Halliburton and BP have blamed each other for the failure of the cement job to seal the Macondo well.

Halliburton announced in April that it was trying to negotiate a settlement to resolve a substantial portion of private claims it has faced since the Deepwater Horizon rig blast spilled millions of litres of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.