NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - A Halliburton Co manager formally pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court on Tuesday to destroying evidence in connection with the oilfield services company’s role in the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
The plea by Anthony Badalamenti, former cementing technology director, was submitted a month after Halliburton also pleaded guilty to similar charges over the deletion of computer simulations of the stability of the ill-fated Macondo well.
Halliburton provided cementing services for BP at the Macondo drilling operation - including the placement of “centralizers,” or huge plugs, at various points in piping as it was placed inside the drilled well. Centralizers help ensure cement properly seals a well.
Halliburton had recommended BP use 21 centralizers in the Macondo well, and BP chose to use six. Halliburton later claimed that if BP had followed its recommendation to use more, the well would have been more stable.
According to court documents, the government alleged that in May 2010, as part of Halliburton’s review of the oil spill which began in April and was plugged in July, Badalamenti directed another manager to run computer simulations comparing performance of 21 centralizers with that of six.
In June that year, Badalamenti allegedly directed a second manager to run a similar comparison.
Both times, the simulations indicated there was little difference between use of 21 centralizers as opposed to six. Prosecutors allege that both times, Badalamenti ordered the managers to delete the simulation results from their computers, and both complied - even though a company executive had asked employees to preserve material related to the well.
The Macondo accident killed 11 workers and the government says 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the sea. It took 87 days to contain the well.
In an ongoing, multi-phase civil trial over the cause of the well explosion in federal court in New Orleans, both the government and BP contend that faulty cement work by Halliburton contributed to the disaster.
BP also contends that Halliburton destroyed computer evidence that would have shown those errors.
Reporting by Kathy Finn in New Orleans and David Ingram in Washington; Editing by Terry Wade and Richard Chang