The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is expected to accept a guilty plea from Halliburton Company to a charge of destroying evidence in the aftermath of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Halliburton will also serve three years of probation, and, despite admitting to destroying evidence, has pledged to cooperate with all remaining criminal investigations into the circumstances surrounding the explosion. The settlement agreement is pending court approval.
As part of its oil field support role, Halliburton helped British Petroleum (BP), which owned a majority stake in the Macondo oil well, in sealing taps through a technique called “cementing.”
DOJ alleged that Halliburton had advised BP to use 21 metal collars to help ensure the effectiveness of the cementing process at the Macondo well, but that BP elected to use only six. DOJ accused Halliburton of destroying evidence held in computer simulations that demonstrated using a smaller number of collars didn’t pose a disproportionate safety risk.
According to the government, Halliburton recommended to BP that the Macondo well contain 21 centralizers, metal collars that can improve cementing, but BP chose to use six.
The government said that, during an internal probe into the cementing after the blowout, Halliburton ordered workers to destroy computer simulations that showed little difference between using six and 21 centralizers. Efforts to forensically locate the simulations were unsuccessful, the government said.
BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion late last year as part of a settlement in which it pleaded guilty to 11 felony charges related to the deaths of the 11 workers who lost their lives in the disaster. Transocean Deepwater Inc., which owned another large stake in the well, agreed to pay $1.4 billion in fines.
Both companies are also involved in ongoing civil litigation, with findings that have so far exacted hundreds of millions of dollars out of billions of dollars in funds each company set aside in anticipation of a deluge of civil claims.
Halliburton, which is also named in the civil litigation, voluntarily agreed to give $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation as part of Thursday’s criminal settlement.