BP is accusing Halliburton of destroying damaging evidence about the quality of its cement that went into the Deepwater Horizon well that exploded, killing 11 people and causing America's worst offshore oil spill.
In a New Orleans federal court, BP accused contractor Halliburton yesterday of having intentionally destroyed evidence about possible problems with its cement slurry poured into the deep-sea well at Macondo, about 100 miles off the Louisiana coast. An oil well must be cemented properly to avoid blowouts.
According to the court documents, BP also accused Halliburton of failing to produce incriminating computer modelling evidence. Halliburton says the modelling is gone.
BP asked a judge to penalise Halliburton and order a court-sponsored computer forensic team to recover the missing modelling results.
Halliburton did not return a call seeking comment but told other media outlets that the accusations were untrue.
The claims in the 310-page motion ratcheted up the showdown among BP and contractors Halliburton and Transocean.
The three companies have been sparring over blame for the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon blast, which led to the release of 206 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. So far, BP, the majority owner of the well, has footed the bill for the emergency response and clean-up.
Also involved are Anadarko Petroleum and Cameron International Corporation.
The first trial over the Deepwater Horizon disaster is due to start on February 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 clean-up costs, punitive damages and other claims.
Government 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 yesterday's court filing, BP accused Halliburton employees doing an internal investigation of the 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 said 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 says.