Halliburton Gets Away with Misdemeanor Charge in Gulf Oil Spill

Oil giant Halliburton pled guilty on Thursday to destroying evidence related to the 2010 BP oil spill. However, unlike the other companies involved in the oil spill, Halliburton, the company responsible for cementing the well, was not charged with a crime related to the causes of the disaster.

One man, a former Halliburton cementing technology director, was charged with destroying evidence Thursday. “Halliburton believes that this closure holds significant positive impacts for the company, its employees and shareholders,” a company statement reads.

Sixty-one-year-old Anthony Badalamenti from Katy, Texas is accused of instructing two Halliburton employees to delete computer simulation data showing how BP constructed their Macondo well where the 2010 blowout occurred, leading to the deaths of 11 men, and a devastating oil spill.

According to Justice Department filings, “The computer simulation didn’t bear out Halliburton’s contention that BP erred by not following its advice on using certain equipment,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Badalamenti was told to preserve any data related to the well, as the government was conducting an investigation into the incidents that caused the Gulf oil spill. He is the fifth individual to face criminal charges for their involvement in the blowout.

Halliburton agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of unauthorized destruction of evidence. US District Judge Jane Triche-Milazzo in New Orleans accepted Halliburton’s plea agreement, and charged the company with the maximum-allowable fine of $200,000 and a 3-year probation term.

The company also agreed to make a $55 million contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Halliburton was contracted by BP to cement and seal the casing in the borehole, a process that should make any release of oil or gas impossible. But the cement pumped into the Macondo well just one day before the blowout was not an appropriate cement blend for the job, and was not given time to set before a negative pressure test was conducted, which allowed oil and gas to travel up the drill pipe where it exploded, according to an oil-field cementing expert’s testimony.

According to Glen Benge’s testimony in the civil trial against BP and its partner companies, there were at least 9 errors made during the cementing of BP’s Macondo well, which contributed to the blowout. Benge laid most of the blame on BP and Halliburton, the company that provided the cementing material, The Times-Picayune reports.

Halliburton has always insisted that BP is to blame for the failed cement job because BP did not follow Halliburton’s recommendation to use 21 centralizers, instead using only 6. Centralizers help seal the well. However, according to court documents, Badalamenti directed two employees to run two separate computer simulations to compare the performance of 21 centralizers versus 6.

When both simulations showed little difference of outcome between the use of 21 and 6 centralizers, Badalamenti ordered both employees to delete the simulation test results from their computers, Reuters reports.

Alisha is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow her on Twitter @childoftheearth.

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