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BP accuses Halliburton of destroying evidence following Gulf spill

U.S. Coast Guard / Getty Images, file

Crews battle the blazing remnants of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 21, 2010.

NEW ORLEANS -- BP has accused Halliburton of destroying damaging evidence about the quality of its cement slurry that went into drilling the oil well that blew out last year and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

In a court filing, the oil company alleged that Halliburton did inadequate cement work. BP also asked a federal judge to punish the oilfield services company.

The accusation raises the stakes ahead of a trial, expected in late February, to assign blame and damages for the April 2010 blowout of the Macondo well, which triggered the spill.


Citing recent depositions and Halliburton's own documents, BP said Halliburton "intentionally" destroyed the results of slurry testing for the well, in part to "eliminate any risk that this evidence would be used against it at trial."

Also in the documents filed in a New Orleans federal court, BP accused Halliburton of failing to produce incriminating computer modeling evidence. BP accused Halliburton of claiming the modeling is gone.

BP asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to penalize Halliburton and order a court-sponsored computer forensic team to recover the missing modeling results.

'Without merit'
Beverly Blohm Stafford, a spokeswoman for Halliburton, told Reuters the Houston-based company is reviewing BP's filing.

"We believe that the conclusion that BP is asking the court to draw is without merit and we look forward to contesting their motion in court," she said.

BP is coming under scathing new criticism over shortcuts and outright failures that resulted in the April 2010 disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 rig workers, soiled miles of coastline, and took nearly three months to get under control. NBC's Anne Thompson reports.

The allegations in the 310-page motion ratcheted up the showdown among BP PLC and contractors, Halliburton and Transocean Ltd. The three companies have been sparring over blame for the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon blast, which killed 11 workers and led to the release of 206 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

So far, BP, the majority owner of the Macondo well, has footed the bill for the emergency response and cleanup.

Also involved are Anadarko Petroleum Co. and Cameron International Corp.

The first trial over the Deepwater Horizon disaster is scheduled to start Feb. 27 in New Orleans. The first leg is expected to take about three months and determine the liability of each company involved in drilling the Macondo well. There will be other phases over cleanup costs, punitive damages and other claims.

Federal and independent investigations of the disaster have found fault in Halliburton's cement job because it failed to properly plug the well. Halliburton used a foamy cement slurry.

In Monday's court filing, BP accused Halliburton employees doing an internal investigation of the Macondo disaster of discarding and destroying early test results they performed on the same batch of cement slurry used in the Macondo well.

BP said Halliburton's chief cement mixer for Gulf projects testified in depositions that the cement slurry seemed "thin" to him but that he chose not to write about his findings to his bosses out of fear he would be misinterpreted.

"I didn't want to put anything on an email that could be twisted, and turned," Rickey Morgan, the Halliburton cement expert, said in depositions. He worked at a laboratory in Duncan, Oklahoma.

"Upon reviewing these latest testing results, Halliburton employees destroyed records of the testing as well as the physical cement samples used in the testing," BP alleged.

People who depend of the Gulf of Mexico for their livelihood are still struggling one year after the BP spill. NBC's Jay Gray reports.

Halliburton is the world's second-largest oilfield services provider.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig's explosion on April 20, 2010, caused 11 deaths, and brought tens of billions of dollars of lawsuits. Halliburton has accused BP of fraud and defamation, among other claims.

BP has also sued Transocean Ltd, which owned the rig, and Cameron International Corp, which made a blowout preventer.

In October, Anadarko Petroleum Corp, which owned 25 percent of the well, agreed to pay BP $4 billion toward clean-up costs and victims compensation.

BP has also reached settlements with Mitsui & Co, whose MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC venture was a drilling partner, and Weatherford International Ltd, which provided equipment used in the well. 

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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