Environmental

Halliburton faces court sanctions for withholding well cement samples

BP 435x292 Halliburton faces court sanctions for withholding well cement samplesBP contractor Halliburton will likely face sanctions for its refusal to turn over samples of the cement it used to seal the doomed Macondo well, which erupted in a series of deadly explosions on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and setting off the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

According to the Associated Press, a lawyer with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange’s office said the state would either wait for BP to file a motion calling for sanctions against Halliburton and support it or it would file its own motion. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is presiding over the non-jury trial in New Orleans, heard the intentions last week. The first phase of the trial is designed to assess blame for the oil disaster among BP and its partners and contractors.

Sanctions imposed against Halliburton could change the way the company is allowed to defend itself in court and could effectively lessen the liabilities of BP and Transocean, the Swiss company that owned and largely operated the Deepwater Horizon rig, for the oil spill.

In the trial’s opening statements, plaintiffs’ attorney Jim Roy said that Halliburton blended cement from another well it cemented in 2008, the Kodiak, for use in the Macondo well.  The problem, Roy asserted, was that the Kodiak cement contained a defoamer additive that “destabilizes and is incompatible with foam cement.” The Macondo well incorporated a foam cement.

“So why would Halliburton risk using this leftover Kodiak cement on the Macondo well and try to convert it to a foam cement when it had defoamer in it? The evidence will show Halliburton was able to save time and save money by doing do,” Roy told the court.

Earlier this month, a Halliburton attorney said the company found Kodiak cement samples at its lab in Broussard, Louisiana. BP attorneys responded that the “rig sample was responsive to subpoenas, and Halliburton should have produced it years ago so that it could have been tested on a timely basis for use at trial and before it deteriorated further.”

In late 2011, BP alleged Halliburton had destroyed the results of lab tests it conducted on its cement samples, but Halliburton countered that those samples did not include cement used in the Macondo well below the Deepwater Horizon rig.

But while Halliburton’s actions come under increased scrutiny, two other BP contractors have escaped sharing liability for the spill. Last Wednesday, Judge Barbier dropped claims M-I LLC and Cameron International. BP contracted M-I to provide drilling fluids used in the Macondo well. Cameron International manufactured the Macondo well’s blowout preventer.

In his ruling, Judge Barbier said that he found no evidence that M-I’s decisions contributed to the deadly blowout, which claimed the lives of two M-I employees. He also said that he heard nothing in the trial that indicated Cameron International acted with gross negligence or willful misconduct before the blowout occurred.

Sources:

The Associated Press
The Louisiana Weekly
AL. com