National News

March 14, 2013

Gulf spill trial: Contractor finds cement samples

NEW ORLEANS — BP’s cement contractor on the Deepwater Horizon rig has discovered cement samples possibly tied to the ill-fated drilling project that weren’t turned over to the Justice Department after the 2010 oil spill, a lawyer for the contractor said Thursday.

Halliburton lawyer Donald Godwin told U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier that the company believes the material found Wednesday at its laboratory in Lafayette has no bearing on the ongoing trial to assign responsibility for the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.

But a plaintiffs’ attorney, Jeffrey Breit, countered that the samples are cement a Halliburton employee used for testing of BP PLC’s Macondo well before the disaster.

The blowout and explosion on April 20, 2010, killed 11 workers and led to the enormous spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The failure of the cement job to seal the well was part of a complex web of mistakes that led to the April 20, 2010, blowout, according to a series of government probes.

In an email to the court late Wednesday, Godwin says Halliburton is investigating whether the cement samples should have been turned over in response to subpoenas.

“The lab was immediately instructed to photograph the materials and to continue to hold them,” Godwin wrote.

Godwin’s email said the newly discovered samples appear to be associated with the Kodiak well, which the London-based energy giant BP and its contractor Transocean were drilling in the Gulf.

The non-jury trial began Feb. 25 and could last months. Barring a settlement, Barbier could decide how much more money that BP and its contractors owe for their roles in the catastrophe. BP could be on the hook for nearly $18 billion in penalties under the Clean Water Act if the judge finds that it acted with “gross negligence.”

During the trial’s opening statements, plaintiffs’ attorney Jim Roy said Halliburton used a cement blend from the Kodiak well in designing the Macondo well. The Kodiak cement contained an additive, a defoamer that “destabilizes and is incompatible with foam cement,” Roy said.

“So why would Halliburton risk using this leftover Kodiak cement on the Macondo well and try to convert it to a foam cement when it had defoamer in it? The evidence will show Halliburton was able to save time and save money by doing so,” Roy said.

Godwin’s email said Halliburton lawyers didn’t have any idea that materials associated with the Kodiak well were still in the company’s possession before hearing testimony Monday from Timothy Probert, a Halliburton president who served as its chief safety officer at the time of the disaster.

Probert had testified he learned of some “irregularities” in tests that Halliburton employees performed in the spill’s aftermath.

Probert didn’t specify the nature of those irregularities, but Breit claimed Halliburton employees conducted “off-the-record” cement tests and didn’t write down some test results because they feared how they could affect spill-related litigation.  

While questioning Probert, Breit said Kodiak cement that Halliburton had stored by April 30, 2010, was no longer listed as being in its possession as of July 20, 2010.

“Do you have any explanation why someone from Halliburton would have violated a preservation order of this court and removed the very Kodiak cement that was being used on the Macondo well?” Breit asked.

Godwin objected, saying there was no evidence that a court order had been violated.

“It’s unfair for anybody to stand here in this courtroom and say that my client took any of that blend out of that locker, which it did not do,” he added.

Barbier also heard several hours of testimony Thursday from marine safety expert Geoff Webster, a plaintiffs’ expert who concluded Transocean failed to properly maintain the Deepwater Horizon or adequately train its crew members. Webster said Transocean shouldn’t have allowed the rig to drill for nine years without bringing it back to shore for shipyard repairs.

“Clearly,” he said, “Transocean was more interested in production than maintenance.”

 

1
Text Only
National News
  • 10 Things to Know for Thursday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday.

    April 23, 2014

  • US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

    The Justice Department is encouraging nonviolent federal inmates who have behaved in prison, have no significant criminal history and have already served more than 10 years behind bars to apply for clemency, officials announced Wednesday.

    April 23, 2014

  • High court tosses $3.4M award to child porn victim

    The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a plea to make it easier for victims of child pornography to collect money from people who view their images online, throwing out a nearly $3.4 million judgment in favor of a woman whose childhood rape has been widely seen on the Internet. Two dissenting justices said Congress should change the law to benefit victims.

    April 23, 2014

  • Airport security vulnerabilities not uncommon

    For all the tens of billions of dollars that the nation has spent on screening passengers and their bags, few airports made a comparable investment to secure the airplanes themselves.

    April 23, 2014

  • Deal signs bill expanding gun rights in Georgia

    Gov. Nathan Deal has signed legislation expanding where people with licenses to carry can bring their guns in Georgia.

    April 23, 2014

  • Indian film awards arrive in Tampa, Fla., but why?

    The so-called Bollywood Oscars have been held in Macau, Singapore, London — and now, Tampa?

    April 23, 2014

  • Indictment: Prosecutor targeted in kidnapping plot

    A North Carolina prosecutor was the intended target of an elaborate kidnapping plot, but the kidnappers looked up the wrong address on the Internet and abducted the prosecutor’s father instead, according to an indictment released Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014

  • Republican activists push party on gay marriage

    As bans against gay marriage crumble and public opinion on the issue shifts rapidly, some Republicans are pushing the party to drop its opposition to same-sex unions, part of a broader campaign to get the GOP to appeal to younger voters by de-emphasizing social issues.

    April 23, 2014

  • Missouri executes inmate for 1993 farm slaying

    Missouri executed an inmate early Wednesday only a few miles from the farm where prosecutors say he orchestrated the 1993 killing of a couple whose cows he wanted to steal.

    April 23, 2014

  • 10 Things to Know for Wednesday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday.

    April 22, 2014

AP Video