Oil field services giant Halliburton says BP hid key information about the Macondo well that could have helped prevent the deadly April 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and the ensuing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
In a pair of lawsuits filed Friday, Halliburton accuses BP of fraud and defamation, saying BP provided inaccurate information about the location of oil and gas producing zones in the well before the cementing job Halliburton performed.
The final cement job in the well is supposed to push cement at least 500 feet above the deepest formation that has hydrocarbons. Halliburton claims BP failed to inform it of several formations in an effort to save money on changes to the well design that would have been needed.
Without knowing the proper locations of the formations, Halliburton says, the company wasn't able to design a cement mix appropriate for the conditions. Halliburton filed the lawsuits in a state court in Houston and federal court in New Orleans.
In the state court filing, Halliburton said "profit and greed" were behind the alleged misinformation.
Halliburton also claims BP has "intentionally and continually" misrepresented its role in the Macondo accident through its public statements and statements to investigators and in its own report on the root causes of the accident, known as the Bly Report.
The court filing says that in essence, the Bly Report categorized Halliburton's main cement job "as a root cause of the blowout purportedly lending support to the allegations" against Halliburton "in the hundreds of lawsuits that comprise the blowout litigation."
In a statement, BP said it believes the lawsuits are an attempt by Halliburton to "divert attention from its role in the Deepwater Horizon incident and its failure to meet its responsibilities."
"Multiple independent investigations have identified serious problems with the cementing of the well as a potential contributory factor to the Deepwater Horizon disaster - not only BP's own investigation," the BP statement said. "BP has accepted its responsibility for responding to the spill and is accordingly paying costs and compensation. In contrast, Halliburton has refused to accept any responsibility or accountability."
Halliburton said it is confident the work it performed was done in accordance with BP's specifications and that it is fully indemnified under the services contract between the companies.
The finger-pointing is no surprise considering the billions in Clean Water Act fines and civil claims the companies face, said David Uhlmann, a former head of the Justice Department's environmental-crimes section who teaches law at the University of Michigan.
"When the dust settles, however, the likelihood that Halliburton will collect from BP - or that any of the companies, including BP, will prevail in the suits they have filed - is slim," Uhlmann said.
(By Tom Fowler, Houston Chronicle, 03/09/2011)