By Jonathan Stempel
Mon Dec 5, 2011 5:31pm EST
(Reuters) – BP Plc accused Halliburton Co of destroying evidence that the oilfield services company did inadequate cement work on the Gulf of Mexico oil well that blew out last year, and asked a federal judge to punish Halliburton.
The accusation, in a BP court filing, raises the stakes ahead of a trial, expected in late February, to assign blame and damages for the April 2010 blowout of the Macondo well, which triggered the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Citing recent depositions and Halliburton’s own documents, BP said Halliburton “intentionally” destroyed the results of slurry testing for the well, in part to “eliminate any risk that this evidence would be used against it at trial.”
The oil company also said Halliburton appeared to have lost computer evidence showing how the cement performed, with Halliburton maintaining that the information is simply “gone.”
BP asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, who oversees spill litigation, to sanction Halliburton by ruling that Halliburton’s slurry design was “unstable,” a finding of fact that could be used at trial.
It also asked Barbier to direct that forensic experts be hired to find the missing computer data.
“These remedies are amply warranted in law and by principles of fair play, and they are essential to ensure this court’s trial is not tainted by Halliburton’s misconduct,” BP said in the filing.
Halliburton is the world’s second-largest oilfield services provider. A spokeswoman, Beverly Blohm Stafford, said the Houston-based company is reviewing BP’s filing.
“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,” she said.
The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig’s explosion on April 20, 2010, caused 11 deaths, and brought tens of billions of dollars of lawsuits. Halliburton has accused BP of fraud and defamation, among other claims.
BP has also sued Transocean Ltd, which owned the rig, and Cameron International Corp, which made a blowout preventer.
In October, Anadarko Petroleum Corp, which owned 25 percent of the well, agreed to pay BP $4 billion toward clean-up costs and victims compensation.
BP has also reached settlements with Mitsui & Co, whose MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC venture was a drilling partner, and Weatherford International Ltd, which provided equipment used in the well.
The case is In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, No. 10-md-02179.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Gary Hill)