US multinational Halliburton has agreed to admit it destoryed evidence related to its part in the huge 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the US Department of Justice announced.
Halliburton will pay the maximum fine available, be on probation for three years and continue to cooperate with the government's criminal investigation, a news release by the department said on Thursday. It did not spell out the fine amount.
The Houston-based multinational also made a separate, voluntary $55 million payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, US Justice Department said, adding that it was not a condition of the court agreement.
Halliburton is the third company to admit wrongdoing over the largest US offshore oil spill happened on April 20, 2010. British oil giant BP and offshore drilling contractor Transocean previously entered guilty pleas related to other aspects of the Gulf oil spill.
The disaster, which caused 11 deaths and triggered the oil spill, occurred following the rupture of the Macondo oil well, which was 65 percent owned by BP. Halliburton had earlier provided cementing services to help seal the well. Transocean was the operator of the Deepwater Horizon rig that was situated on Macondo.
Halliburton 'ordered' to destroy evidence
According to the US Department of Justice news release, Halliburton recommended to BP that the Macondo well contain 21 centralisers - metal collars that can improve cementing. BP chose to use six.
The release also said that during an internal probe into the cementing after the blowout, Halliburton ordered workers to destroy computer simulations that showed little difference between using six and 21 centralisers. Efforts to forensically locate the simulations were unsuccessful, the department added.
The news release said that a criminal information charging Halliburton with one count of destruction of evidence was filed in federal court in Louisiana.
Halliburton and BP have blamed each other for the failure of the cement job to seal the Macondo well. During a trial this past spring, BP asked a federal judge to sanction Halliburton for allegedly destroying evidence about the role that its cement slurry design could have played in the blowout.
Halliburton announced in April it was trying to negotiate a settlement over its role in the disaster.