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BP has accused Halliburton, the oil services group, of intentionally destroying evidence relating to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico last year, which killed 11 men and led to the world’s largest accidental offshore oil spill.
Halliburton was one of the principal contractors on the project at the time of the accident, working on cement intended to seal the well to prevent leaks of oil and gas.
In a filing to the court in New Orleans that will hear the trial for damages arising from the spill, BP alleged that Halliburton had destroyed test results and computer analysis “because it wanted to eliminate any risk that this evidence would be used against it at trial”.
BP called on the court to order Halliburton to hand the computer used for the analysis over to an independent forensic electronics firm.
Halliburton said in a statement it was reviewing the details of the motion filed on Monday. “However, we believe that the conclusion that BP is asking the court to draw is without merit and we look forward to contesting their motion in court.”
In court filings in September, it accused BP of “negligent misrepresentation, business disparagement and defamation”, arguing that BP had provided Halliburton with inaccurate information before the disaster on April 20 2010, and had continued to present a misleading picture in subsequent public statements.
Halliburton has been criticised for its role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, along with Transocean, which owned and operated the rig, and BP, which had overall control of the project.
Inquiries have found that the failure of the cement seal to prevent leakage of oil and gas into the well as the rig prepared to move off to another location was one of the principal causes of the accident.
BP and Halliburton have disagreed sharply over how much responsibility they each bear for that failure, and the apportionment of blame will be an important issue in the “multidistrict litigation” damages trial, which is scheduled to begin in New Orleans next February.
After the accident, Halliburton carried out tests on the batch of cement slurry that had been used on the well, and also did computer simulations of how the cement would have performed.
In its filing, BP said that, as far as it knew, the results of those tests “are not recorded in any standard or customary scientific manner anywhere” and the samples used had been disposed of.
Similarly, it alleged, Halliburton had not handed over the results of computer modelling – in spite of repeated requests – saying last month that the results were “gone” from the computer that had been used.
BP argued that as a result the court and parties in the litigation had been deprived of “uniquely relevant evidence”.
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