Gulf of Mexico oil spill: Halliburton pleads guilty to destroying evidence

The energy services firm agrees to pay fine and $55m donation to wildlife charity

The US cement contractor working for BP on the drill that caused the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill has agreed to plead guilty to destroying evidence relating to the investigation of the disaster.

The Department of Justice said yesterday that Texas-based Halliburton Energy Services agreed to pay the maximum statutory fine, believed to be $200,000, to be on probation for three years and that it would continue to cooperate with the government's criminal investigation.

The company also made a voluntary contribution of $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which was not a condition of the court agreement.

Halliburton issued a statement saying it had accepted guilt for “one misdemeanour violation associated with the deletion of records” and that the Justice Department had agreed it will not pursue further criminal prosecution of the company or its subsidiaries.

Halliburton said it had conducted its own review of the well's design and construction after the blowout, which killed 11 workers in April 2010 and spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf.

BP and Halliburton have blamed each other for the failure of the cement job to seal the Macondo well. And while the Houston-based contractor recommended the drilling rig use 21 “centralizers” – metal collars that help keep the drill centred in its casing – the British oil company decided to use six.

According to yesterday’s press release, Halliburton’s review used computer modelling to assess whether this decision might have led to the disaster, but the results showed that it made no discernible difference.

The company then ordered the programme manager to destroy evidence of the review, which he did, according to federal officials.

The revelations of a cover-up come as a result of the ongoing criminal investigation as to who is to blame for the massive oil spill, the worst in history off the coast of America.

Halliburton announced in April that it was trying to negotiate a settlement to resolve a substantial portion of private claims it has faced since the Deepwater Horizon rig blast.

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