Blizzard of lawsuits to fix blame over BP spill

The $40bn claim against Transocean corresponds to the $40.9bn in provisions that BP has made to cover the response costs and the compensation trust fund
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The Independent Online

BP is suing Halliburton for its role in last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, claiming that "improper conduct, errors and omissions, including fraud and concealment" by the US group had led to the devastating Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The suit was one of a flurry of cases filed on Wednesday, the first anniversary of the spill, as BP and others rushed to meet a statutory deadline for claims against companies connected to the spill.

In addition to the case against Halliburton, which cemented the well, BP is also suing Transocean, the owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon rig, for $40bn and Cameron, which manufactured the blow-out preventer safety device which BP said failed to secure the well.

BP was also the subject of spill-related claims, with the company saying it was facing lawsuits from Anadarko Petroleum, the Mitsui unit Moex and Cameron.

The oil giant said its claims against Halliburton were "consistent with the conclusions reached by the Presidential Commission, which found that the cement slurry designed, mixed and pumped by Halliburton failed, that Halliburton did not provide BP with the results of failed cement tests, and that mudloggers who worked for the company's Sperry Drilling unit missed critical signals that hydrocarbons were flowing into the wellbore".

"The record is clear that Halliburton's misconduct contributed to the accident and spill," the company said, adding that Halliburton had "persistently refused to co-operate with the ongoing investigations into the accident, to accept its role in causing it, and to learn lessons from the incident to improve business practices".

In response, Cathy Mann, a spokeswoman for Halliburton, said the US group would vigorously defend itself against BP's claims.

In the suit against Transocean, BP alleged that the rig operator had "caused the Deepwater Horizon to be unseaworthy in multiple, material ways – all leading to the casualty and injuries which took place on or after 20 April 2010".

"The simple fact is that... every single safety system and device and well control procedure on the Deepwater Horizon failed, resulting in the casualty," BP said.

The $40bn claim corresponds with the $40.9bn in provisions that BP made in its 2010 accounts to cover the response costs and funds for the compensation trust fund of $20bn, which was established last year, and which is being overseen by the US government-appointed administrator Kenneth Feinberg.

In the Cameron case, BP said it was suing the Houston-based group for its "faulty design of the blow-out preventer (BOP), and its negligence in the maintenance and modification" of the safety device.

The legal blame game exposes companies to criticism of attempting to deflect attention. Last year, for instance, President Barack Obama slammed BP, Transocean and Halliburton for doing so during hearings before US lawmakers.

"I did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous spectacle during the congressional hearings into this matter," he said in May.

"You had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else."