Halliburton unit admits destroying Macondo incident evidence

Halliburton Energy Services Inc. agreed to plead guilty to destroying evidence in connection with the Apr. 20, 2010, Macondo deepwater well blowout and fire in the Gulf of Mexico that took 11 lives and set off the biggest US crude oil spill in history, the US Department of Justice announced on July 25.

Halliburton Co. confirmed the agreement in its own announcement, noting that the subsidiary pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor violation. It said HES would pay the maximum $200,000 fine, accept 3 years’ probation, and continue to cooperate with the government’s investigation.

DOJ said Halliburton separately made a voluntary $55 million contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which was not conditioned on the court’s acceptance of its plea agreement. That settlement was filed July 25 in US District Court for Louisiana’s Eastern District.

Following the incident, Halliburton conducted its own review of various technical aspects of the well’s design and construction, according to DOJ. It said the oil field service and supply company established an internal working group on or about May 3, 2010, to examine the Macondo well blowout, including whether the number of centralizers used on the final production casing could have contributed to the blowout.

Before the blowout, Halliburton had recommended to BP, the well’s operator, that it use 21 centralizers, which can help keep the casing centered in the wellbore away from the surrounding walls as it is lowered and placed in the well, DOJ said. BP chose to use six, it added.

Ran simulations

It said during Halliburton’s review, the company’s cementing technology director directed a senior program manager for the cement product line to run two computer simulations of the Macondo well final cementing job using Halliburton’s Displace 3D simulation program to compare the impact of using six vs. 21 centralizers.

When the simulations showed there was little difference between using six and 21 centralizers, the program manager was directed to destroy the results and did so, DOJ said.

It said similar evidence was destroyed in June 2010 when Halliburton’s cement technology director asked another, more experienced, employee to run the simulations compared six vs. 21 centralizers. When that simulation reached the same conclusion, that employee was also directed to destroy the results and did so.

Efforts by federal investigators to recover the destroyed 3D computer simulations were unsuccessful, DOJ said. Halliburton accepted criminal responsibility for destroying the evidence when it agreed to plead guilty, it noted.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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