BP Hid Information Before Gulf Well Blowout


–Halliburton Claims in Lawsuit–

By Margaret Cronin Fisk – Sep 2, 2011 11:48 AM CT  – British Petroleum (BP)  gave inaccurate information about the location of hydrocarbon zones, a risk factor, in the Macondo oil well to avoid stalling the project before the well blew out in April 2010, Halliburton Co. (HAL) said in a lawsuit.

Halliburton Energy Services Inc., the unit that provided cementing services for the well, sued BP in state court in Houston yesterday, alleging slander and business disparagement. A BP report on the incident in the Gulf of Mexico called the cementing job “a root cause of the blowout,” Halliburton said in its complaint.

The report “intentionally and deliberately omits the critical fact that BP knew or should have known about an additional hydrocarbon zone in the well that BP failed to disclose” before Halliburton designed the cement program for the well, according to the complaint. Halliburton said it wouldn’t have pumped cement had it known of the zone.

BP failed to disclose this after the blowout as well in an effort to blame others for the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, Halliburton said. Halliburton also filed a proposed amendment in its suit against BP in federal court in New Orleans, seeking to add fraud claims.

“This lawsuit is the latest attempt by Halliburton to divert attention from its role in the Deepwater Horizon incident and its failure to meet its responsibilities, and to deflect all blame to BP,” BP said in a statement today.

Reviewing Claims

The company won’t comment in detail until its review of the claims is complete, according to the statement.

“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 company said.

The Macondo blowout and the explosion that followed killed 11 workers and set off the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The accident and spill led to hundreds of lawsuits against London-based BP and its partners and contractors. The lawsuits over economic losses and personal injuries have been combined before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans.

The lawsuits also name as defendants Transocean Ltd. (RIG), the Switzerland-based owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that exploded; Houston-based Halliburton; and Cameron International Corp. (CAM), which provided blowout-prevention equipment. BP’s minority partners in the well, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC) and Mitsui & Co.’s Moex Offshore LLC unit, were also sued.

Halliburton Vulnerable

BP’s actions before and after the blowout left Halliburton vulnerable to these lawsuits, the company said in court papers.

“The motive behind BP’s intentional nondisclosure of the upper hydrocarbon zone is apparent — profit and greed,” Halliburton said in the Houston suit.

Halliburton wouldn’t have pumped cement at the well until changes were made, “changes that likely would have required a redesign of the production casing,” the company said in its complaint. “Such changes would have cost BP millions of dollars on a well that was already painfully over budget and behind schedule.”

The Houston case is Halliburton Energy Services Inc. v. BP Exploration & Production Inc., 2011-525809, District Court, Harris County, Texas. The federal case is In Re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).

To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Southfield, Michigan, at mcfisk@bloomberg.net.