Halliburton Energy Services has pleaded guilty to destroying evidence related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a disaster from which the Gulf of Mexico has yet to fully recover, the US Department of Justice announced Thursday.
Per the agreement, Halliburton will be subject to three years of probation and will be required “to continue its cooperation in the government’s ongoing criminal investigation,” according to the Justice Department statement. Halliburton, which was headed by Dick Cheney before he agreed to serve as US vice president under George W. Bush, also donated $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The contribution was not court-mandated but may have served to curry favor with investigators.
Halliburton was the cement contractor hired for the drilling rig that exploded in the Atlantic Ocean on April 20, 2010. Eleven workers were killed in the blast, which then dumped millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf for nearly three months straight.
After the initial blast, Halliburton was asked to examine the technical aspects of BP’s drilling well, establishing “an internal working group to examine the Macondo well blowout, including whether the number of centralizers used on the final production casing could have contributed to the blowout,” the Justice Department stated.
Production casings are heavy metal pipes used across the area of< the oil and natural gas reservoir, federal officials noted.
A program manager, in May 2010, was then told “to run two computer simulations of the Macondo well final cementing job using Halliburton’s Displace 3D simulation program to compare the impact of using six versus 21 centralizers.”
While Halliburton recommended BP use 21 centralizers, the company decided to only use six after simulations indicated it would make little difference.
The program manager “was directed to, and did, destroy these” incriminating results, Thursday’s statement said.
Both Halliburton and BP have blamed each other for the cement’s failing to seal the Macondo well, according to the Associated Press.
The agreement, while pending court approval, could mean Halliburton’s weakness in negotiating over spill-related issues, Tulane University law professor Edward Sherman told Reuters.
“Their willingness to plead to this may also indicate that they’d like to settle up with the federal government on the civil penalties,” he said. “It may indicate a softening of their position.”
A January 2013 study found that the spill, along with the environmental effects, contributed to unexplained health problems< among children within ten miles of the coastline. Parents in Lousiana and Florida told David Abramson, the director of Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness, that they witnessed “unexplained symptoms among their children, including bleeding ears, nose bleeds, and the early start of menstruation among girls.”