BP says Halliburton destroyed critical cement test results

BP on Monday accused Halliburton of destroying potentially damaging internal test results that showed that the cement it used to secure the Macondo well that blew out in the Gulf of Mexico last year was unstable.

BP made the allegations today in a 310-page legal filing before a New Orleans-based federal district court that is overseeing a broad class action lawsuit tied to the 2010 oil spill.

BP accused Halliburton of “steadfastly” refusing to turn over its internal results from testing on the cement mix and subsequently destroying the data from those examinations. BP also insisted that Halliburton failed to turn over computer modeling that might demonstrate that channels did not form in cement at the well.

“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,” BP said in its filing.

Halliburton spokeswoman Beverly Stafford said in a statement that the company is reviewing details of BP’s filing, but that “we believe that the conclusion that BP is asking the court to draw is without merit and we look forward to contesting their motion in court.”

It is the latest gambit in the legal fight over who bears liability for the Deepwater Horizon disaster — a battle that also has involved fast-flying accusations of fraud and defamation, as the firms that worked on the site seek to distance themselves from the accident that killed 11 workers and unleashed the nation’s worst oil spill.

The viability of the cement used to isolate oil and gas at BP’s Macondo well has emerged as a major issue in investigations into the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Halliburton has argued that the cement mix it prepared and applied at the site was stable, which would allow it to adequately coat the outer edges of the Macondo well and keep oil and gas at bay.

But Halliburton also insists that some of BP’s choices — including the oil company’s decision to use fewer so-called “centralizers” to properly position pipe in the well — caused channels to form in the cement, allowing hydrocarbons to flow to the surface.

By contrast, BP argues that depositions from Halliburton witnesses _ as well as internal documents from the company _ demonstrate the cement slurry was not stable, and therefore may have broken down after being applied at the Macondo well, causing vulnerabilities.

BP is asking federal district judge Carl Barbier to allow forensic firms to scour Halliburton’s computer for the missing results from its internal modeling. BP also is asking the court to issue a finding that Halliburton’s cement was unstable _ a conclusion that could help the oil company in court.

This isn’t the first time BP and Halliburton have traded accusations in connection with the oil spill.

In September, Halliburton sued BP, arguing that the oil company hid key information about the Macondo well that may have prevented the disaster. Halliburton accused BP of fraud and defamation and said the London-based oil giant provided inaccurate information about the location of oil and gas producing zones in the well before Halliburton applied cement at the site.

The final cement job in the well was meant to push cement at least 500 feet above the deepest geological formation that contains hydrocarbons. Halliburton claimed BP failed to inform it of several formations in an effort to save money by preventing costly changes to the well design.

Without knowing the proper locations of the formations, Halliburton argued, it wasn’t able to design a cement mix appropriate for the conditions at the site.

BP’s filing Monday relies on depositions of several Halliburton witnesses, including one Oklahoma-based employee who said he ran tests on samples of the cement slurry used at the Macondo well but then “destroyed” the results to ensure they weren’t “misinterpreted.” Under the testing, the Halliburton worker said, the cement mix broke down and seemed thin.

The alleged testing was conducted in late April or early May 2010.

BP filing against HAL re cement testing38