Halliburton Accused of Destroying Evidence in Oil Spill Trial
A Halliburton executive was questioned today over allegations that his company destroyed evidence related to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion of 2010, but insisted he was not personally involved in any coverup.
Timothy Probert, now Halliburton’s president of strategic and corporate development, faced several questions about cement samples that were requested but never received by oil giant BP for examination in BP’s internal investigation into the accident. Halliburton was the contractor that developed the cement slurry used in the doomed Macondo oil well.
Probert said he was not a cement expert and was “not involved in any way” with testing the samples, but that he was aware of “irregularities” that surfaced during those tests.
Jeffrey Breit, an attorney representing a group of Gulf Coast residents and business owners, asked Probert if lab workers discarded or failed to write down their observations while testing the cement samples. Probert said that doing so “wouldn’t be consistent” with Halliburton’s policies, but that he couldn’t personally vouch for every Halliburton technician’s adherence to those policies in this case.
When an attorney for co-defendant and BP contractor Transocean asked Probert if he was “angry” to learn that the evidence may have been destroyed, Probert said, “It doesn’t make you feel happy.”
‘Unwavering’ Refusal to Release Evidence
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The allegations that Halliburton destroyed evidence first arose in December 2011, when BP formally accused Halliburton in court documents.
“Halliburton has steadfastly refused to provide these critical testing and modeling results in discovery,” the court filing says. “Halliburton’s refusal has been unwavering, despite repeated BP discovery requests and a specific order from this Court. BP has now learned the reason for Halliburton’s intransigence — Halliburton destroyed the results of physical slurry testing, and it has, at best, lost the computer modeling outputs …”
“More egregious still, Halliburton intentionally destroyed the evidence related to its non-privileged cement testing, in part because it wanted to eliminate any risk that this evidence would be used against it at trial.”
The motion cites the deposition of Rickey Morgan, one of the lab technicians who tested the samples. Morgan testified that the samples “looked thin” but that he didn’t record the test results or retain the samples because he “worried about” those samples “being misinterpreted in the litigation.”
Halliburton maintains that BP’s motion is without merit.
Blowout Preventer Not the Best
Forensic engineer Rory Davis, who was part of the team that investigated the Deepwater Horizon’s failed blowout preventer, also concluded his testimony today. He said that while the blowout preventer met the standards of offshore drilling regulators, it wasn’t the safest or most powerful equipment available.
In his testimony last week, Davis said that better blowout preventer shears could have successfully cut through the rig’s riser pipe and sealed off the well. But when an automatic function finally activated the shears two days after the blowout, the blowout preventer lacked the power to sever the pipe, which by then was leaning in a way that made a clean cut difficult.
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