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BP Asks Court to Sanction Halliburton in Deepwater Horizon Trial

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Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

BP PLC has asked a federal judge to issue sanctions against Halliburton Co., alleging that the drilling contractor withheld evidence in the trial following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

BP's filing, issued Thursday, comes after an attorney for Halliburton told the New Orleans court overseeing the BP oil spill trial last week that it had discovered a five-gallon bucket containing cement taken off the Deepwater Horizon rig that had not been made available for evidence ahead of the trial.

Halliburton later confirmed to the court that the sample, which had been labeled with the name of another well, actually contained the blend of cement that had been used at well being drilled by the Deepwater Horizon rig before the explosion. In its filing, BP argued that the court has been deprived of evidence about the quality of Halliburton's work and the role its products might have played in the April 20, 2010, blowout.

A spokesman for Halliburton did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

The disclosure came in the midst of a federal trial aimed at apportioning blame for the 2010 explosion between BP and the companies it contracted with to work on the well. Thursday was the 16th day of the proceeding, which is being heard by Judge Carl Barbier in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana.

BP said Halliburton "undermined the integrity of these proceeding," and "severely prejudiced" BP and the other parties involved.

"This rig sample was responsive to subpoenas and Halliburton should have produced it years ago so that it could have been tested on a timely basis for use at trial and before it deteriorated further," BP wrote in the filing Thursday.

Friday, the plaintiffs in the proceeding wrote in a notice to the court that Halliburton had concealed and failed to disclose evidence "all part of an effort by upper management to ratify and conceal Halliburton's pre-blowout callous disregard for safety."

A lab employee for Halliburton testified Tuesday that he had no way of knowing that the sample was used at the well that blew out.

Last year, BP sought sanctions against Halliburton alleging that the company had destroyed the results of tests Halliburton had conducted on a cement sample it made in a lab.

But Halliburton argued, and Judge Barbier agreed, that BP was not harmed by this because the tests were not conducted on the actual cement used on the rig, so they could be replicated.

Thomas Claps, an analyst with Susquehanna International Group, wrote in a research note Friday that information about the newly discovered sample increases the chances that Halliburton will be sanctioned, which could shift some liability away from BP and Transocean.

"Halliburton's conduct is sure to be closely scrutinized by Judge Barbier," he wrote.

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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