By TOM FOWLER
Halliburton will plead guilty to destroying evidence in the wake of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Justice Department said Thursday.
The government said the company, which was a contractor involved in drilling the oil well that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, destroyed computer simulations it performed in the months after the accident.
Those simulations didn't bear out Halliburton's contention that BP, which owned the well, erred by not following its advice on using certain equipment, the Justice Department said.
BP had hired Halliburton to manage the process in which cement is used to seal pipes into place in oil and gas wells, preventing dangerous leaks. Investigators found that natural gas surged up onto the drilling rig and exploded, killing 11 and unleashing the worst offshore oil spill in US history.
Government investigators warned companies involved in drilling the well to preserve all evidence related to the accident. But a Halliburton supervisor told engineers who conducted the simulations to delete the data, according to a filling in Federal District Court in New Orleans.
In addition to pleading guilty to one count of destruction of evidence and paying an unspecified fine, Halliburton will donate $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the government said.
Halliburton has long denied responsibility for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, telling investigators that BP ignored its warnings that the cement job would likely fail if BP didn't use additional "centralizers," which hold pipes in place. The simulations showed that the number of centralizers didn't make a difference, the government said.
In a separate matter Thursday, Halliburton said it is part of a federal antitrust investigation into the hydraulic-fracturing industry.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said the antitrust division "is investigating the possibility of anticompetitive practices involving pressure-pumping services performed on oil and gas wells."
Halliburton said other firms have been contacted by the Justice Department and that Halliburton didn't believe it was being singled out for scrutiny.
Dow Jones Newswires