A former technology director at US cementing contractor Halliburton has admitted to destroying evidence linked to BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Antony Badalamenti, 62, faces a maximum of one year in prison after submitting the guilty plea in a US district court, according to the BBC.
BP’s 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, Halliburton and rig operator Transocean.
In turn, BP blamed Halliburton for failing to properly use its own OptiCem modelling software to analyse safe drilling conditions, which made key technology on the rig “unreasonably dangerous”.
In 2011, BP 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.
As the cementing technology director for Halliburton at the time of the spill, Badalementi is being accused of ordering his program manager to delete computer records.
The program manager “felt uncomfortable” with the request, but still complied, prosecutors said, adding that another Halliburton employee had also deleted data on Badalamenti’s instructions.
The OptiCem software has been an area of focus of many of the reports that followed the spill.
While US authorities concluded that BP failed to adhere to the software results, the oil firm has accused Halliburton of "failing to properly run the OptiCem model, including failing to make the proper assumptions" and inputting "demonstrably wrong data". Halliburton denied the charges.
BP equally accused rig owner Transocean of failing to use advanced monitoring screens to properly watch the well conditions, and manufacturer Cameron of not designing a proper blowout preventer, the key device that plugs the well.
In 2011, Transocean and Cameron insisted the devices were safe and well managed on their part.
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.