Court deadline prompts flurry of Macondo claims, counterclaims

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Apr. 21 -- A court-imposed Apr. 20 deadline in a New Orleans federal court prompted a flurry of claims and counterclaims as BP PLC filed litigation against Transocean Ltd., Halliburton Corp., and Cameron International Corp. regarding the Apr. 20, 2010, blowout of the deepwater Macondo well.

The litigation was filed with the Eastern District of Louisiana US District Court on the first anniversary of the blowout, which resulted in a fire and explosion on Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible. Macondo, operated by BP, was on Mississippi Canyon Block 252 in 5,000 ft of water.

Eleven crew members were killed, and a massive oil spill resulted in the Gulf of Mexico. The Deepwater Horizon sank on Apr. 22, 2010. Oil spill response teams installed a temporary cap halting the flow of oil from Macondo on July 15, and the well was permanently sealed in September.

Halliburton provided cement and mud logging services for the Macondo well. Cameron manufactured the Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer.

Much of the litigation refers to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which requires the US government to document the environmental damage caused by an oil spill. This documentation is used to help determine which company or companies pay damages. A long-running court battle is anticipated.

In a statement to the media, BP said, “Halliburton’s misconduct contributed to the accident and spill.”

BP’s statement cited the Presidential Commission that investigated the accident as saying that the cement slurry failed. BP’s lawsuit said Halliburton concealed from BP “material facts” about the cement slurry.

BP said controversy exists between itself and Halliburton regarding Halliburton’s liability to BP for any monetary recovery. BP’s lawsuit against Halliburton specified no damage amount. During 2010, BP set aside $40.9 billion for spill-related expenses.

In an e-mail to OGJ, Halliburton said it “remains confident that we executed our work on the Macondo well under BP’s direction and according to their plan.” It said, “The claims we have filed against BP confirm that we are seeking simply to enforce the indemnity BP provided to Halliburton in our contract with them.”

A Halliburton spokeswoman said the claims, counterclaims, and lawsuits filed among all parties involved with Macondo were expected “in order to preserve their options in the ongoing litigation.”

Transocean issued a news release saying it sought to enforce its indemnification rights under a drilling contract with BP.

“BP has agreed, among other things, to assume full responsibility for and defend, release, and indemnify Transocean from any loss, expense, claim, fine, penalty or liability for pollution or contamination, including control and removal thereof, arising out of or connected with operations under the contract. Transocean expects BP to honor its contractual indemnification obligations under the contract.”

In court documents, BP said Transocean failed to properly monitor the well and “failed to recognize that a kick was in progress.” BP also questioned Transocean’s protocols regarding how to respond to a loss of well control.

“Transocean’s crew used the wrong equipment at the wrong times to attempt to control the blowout,” BP said.

Regarding the Deepwater Horizon’s BOP, BP said Cameron designed and produced “an unreasonably dangerous BOP.” BP also accused Cameron of negligent conduct in the BOP’s maintenance.

A spokeswoman for Cameron said the lawsuits and counterclaims were expected.

“It is not surprising that the companies are filing to protect their indemnity rights (except in the case of BP) and whatever claims they believe they have. Additionally, in order to protect ourselves, we, too, have filed cross-claims and counterclaims, including our indemnity claims, against other parties to the litigation,” she said on behalf of Cameron.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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