Halliburton Energy Services pleaded guilty to destroying evidence pertaining to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release. The U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana filed a criminal information charging Halliburton with one count of destruction of evidence.
The company signed a plea agreement with the U.S. government, formally claiming its guilt and admitting to criminal actions. Halliburton has also agreed to pay the maximum fine, undergo three years of probation, and must maintain cooperation during the government’s criminal investigation. Of its own accord, Halliburton has also donated $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, independent of stipulations outlined in the plea agreement.
Shortly after the initial disaster, which killed 11 rig workers and resulted in the world’s most devastating man-made disaster, Halliburton conducted an internal “review of various technical aspects of the well’s design and construction.” Around May 3, Halliburton organized a group to determine whether the amount of centralizers on the production casings were contributory to the blowout.
Centralizers and production casings are crucial fixtures in the structural integrity of offshore oil wells. The casings are heavy metal pipes that are set up across the area of the well’s reservoir. Centralizers are metal collars positioned around the outsides of the casings that keep them centered in the wellbore away from the surrounding walls during raising and lowering. Halliburton recommended that BP use 21 centralizers at the Macondo, but BP only used six.
The results of a simulation conducted by a Senior Program Manager, enlisted by Halliburton’s Cementing Technology Director found almost no differentiation between six and 21 centralizers. The results were ultimately destroyed by the Program Manager. On a second occasion in June 2010, similar results from another simulation were also destroyed. The attempts of the Deepwater Horizon Task Force to obtain the original results of both simulations were unsuccessful.
The investigation by the New Orleans-based Deepwater Horizon Task Force is ongoing and Halliburton has assumed responsibility for its criminal actions.
Despite Halliburton admitting its guilt, some legal experts believe this will only impose harsher verdicts against Halliburton. University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias said “This could impact how the civil litigation is resolved, potentially imposing more liability on Halliburton than we originally thought.