Halliburton faces judgment day in Gulf oil spill
HOUSTON — For 41 months, Halliburton mostly stood on the outside as its partners on the ill-fated Macondo
The oil field services company’s day of reckoning finally comes
Thursday, not for conduct leading up to the disaster but rather what it
did afterward: destroying what the government regarded as evidence.
Halliburton will end the federal criminal investigation of the
company with a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge. If U.S. District
Judge Jane Triche Milazzo in New Orleans accepts the plea, as
prosecutors and Halliburton have urged her to do, the company will pay a
$200,000 fine and serve three years of probation.
The government could suspend Halliburton from securing new federal
contracts, though prosecutors have agreed to advise agencies that the
company provided significant cooperation in the criminal inquiry and
accepted its responsibility.
Halliburton also faces the possibility of having to pay billions of
dollars in civil damages, if U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier declares
the company was grossly negligent.
The first phase of a civil trial over the disaster, which dealt with
assigning responsibility, wrapped up in April. The second phase, to
determine how much oil spilled, starts Sept. 30.
At the time of the disaster, well owner BP was in the process of
temporarily abandoning the well. Halliburton supplied the cement used to
plug the well. The seal failed to keep oil and gas from entering the
well, triggering a blowout and an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon
that killed 11 workers.
Federal prosecutors say that after the well blew out, Halliburton
looked at whether the number of centralizers used on the final
production casing — pipe cemented into the well bore — could have
contributed to the blowout. Centralizers can be significant to the
quality of cementing around the bottom of the casing.
Halliburton had recommended BP use 21 centralizers. BP used six.
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Prosecutors say that the month after the blowout April 20, 2010, a
Halliburton official told a senior program manager to run two computer
simulations. They indicated that there was little difference between
using six and 21 centralizers. The manager was directed to, and did,
destroy those results, the Justice Department said.
In June 2010, similar evidence also was destroyed when Halliburton’s
cementing technology director asked an employee to run simulations again
comparing six versus 21 centralizers. The employee reached the same
conclusion and, like the program manager before him, then was directed
to “get rid of” the simulations, federal prosecutors say.