A former BP engineer has been found guilty of obstruction charges after deleting text messages containing evidence about the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Kurt Mix, 52, was found guilty of one charge of obstructing the investigation into the BP Deepwater Horizon rig blast, but was acquitted of another charge.
The Deepwater Horizon rig blast in April 2010 killed 11 oil rig workers and led to 4.9 million barrels of oil spilling into the sea. US government reports concluded numerous factors caused the accident, and blamed BP and its contractors, US cementing contractor Halliburton and rig operator Transocean.
Mix’s conviction follows the guilty plea made by a former technology director at Halliburton, Antony Badalamenti, who admitted to destroying evidence linked to the oil spill.
Mix was accused of trying to destroy evidence after deleting hundreds of text messages between him, a supervisor and a BP contractor.
However, Mix’s defence lawyers insisted that he did not hide anything and that he retained other records that contained the same information as the deleted text messages.
Mix will be sentenced in March 2014, and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 (£152,000) fine.
In 2011, BT accused Halliburton of deleting from computers the key cement modelling data used to analyse the slurry mix needed at the Macondo well.
Halliburton initially denied the claims, but has since pleaded guilty to the unauthorised deletion of a computer record that was created after the Macondo well incident. This led to a fine of $200,000 and three years’ probation, and the US Department of Justice closed its investigation of the company’s role in the incident in September 2013.
However, in February this year, Transocean was sentenced to pay $400 million and other penalties after pleading guilty to illegal conduct leading to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
In its plea, it admitted that its rig crew was “negligent in failing to investigate full clear indications that the Macondo well was not secure and that oil and gas were flowing into the well,” the US Justice Department said.