• 11 hours PDVSA Booted From Caribbean Terminal Over Unpaid Bills
  • 13 hours Russia Warns Ukraine Against Recovering Oil Off The Coast Of Crimea
  • 15 hours Syrian Rebels Relinquish Control Of Major Gas Field
  • 16 hours Schlumberger Warns Of Moderating Investment In North America
  • 17 hours Oil Prices Set For Weekly Loss As Profit Taking Trumps Mideast Tensions
  • 18 hours Energy Regulators Look To Guard Grid From Cyberattacks
  • 20 hours Mexico Says OPEC Has Not Approached It For Deal Extension
  • 21 hours New Video Game Targets Oil Infrastructure
  • 23 hours Shell Restarts Bonny Light Exports
  • 24 hours Russia’s Rosneft To Take Majority In Kurdish Oil Pipeline
  • 1 day Iraq Struggles To Replace Damaged Kirkuk Equipment As Output Falls
  • 1 day British Utility Companies Brace For Major Reforms
  • 2 days Montenegro A ‘Sweet Spot’ Of Untapped Oil, Gas In The Adriatic
  • 2 days Rosneft CEO: Rising U.S. Shale A Downside Risk To Oil Prices
  • 2 days Brazil Could Invite More Bids For Unsold Pre-Salt Oil Blocks
  • 2 days OPEC/Non-OPEC Seek Consensus On Deal Before Nov Summit
  • 2 days London Stock Exchange Boss Defends Push To Win Aramco IPO
  • 2 days Rosneft Signs $400M Deal With Kurdistan
  • 2 days Kinder Morgan Warns About Trans Mountain Delays
  • 2 days India, China, U.S., Complain Of Venezuelan Crude Oil Quality Issues
  • 2 days Kurdish Kirkuk-Ceyhan Crude Oil Flows Plunge To 225,000 Bpd
  • 3 days Russia, Saudis Team Up To Boost Fracking Tech
  • 3 days Conflicting News Spurs Doubt On Aramco IPO
  • 3 days Exxon Starts Production At New Refinery In Texas
  • 3 days Iraq Asks BP To Redevelop Kirkuk Oil Fields
  • 4 days Oil Prices Rise After U.S. API Reports Strong Crude Inventory Draw
  • 4 days Oil Gains Spur Growth In Canada’s Oil Cities
  • 4 days China To Take 5% Of Rosneft’s Output In New Deal
  • 4 days UAE Oil Giant Seeks Partnership For Possible IPO
  • 4 days Planting Trees Could Cut Emissions As Much As Quitting Oil
  • 4 days VW Fails To Secure Critical Commodity For EVs
  • 4 days Enbridge Pipeline Expansion Finally Approved
  • 4 days Iraqi Forces Seize Control Of North Oil Co Fields In Kirkuk
  • 4 days OPEC Oil Deal Compliance Falls To 86%
  • 5 days U.S. Oil Production To Increase in November As Rig Count Falls
  • 5 days Gazprom Neft Unhappy With OPEC-Russia Production Cut Deal
  • 5 days Disputed Venezuelan Vote Could Lead To More Sanctions, Clashes
  • 5 days EU Urges U.S. Congress To Protect Iran Nuclear Deal
  • 5 days Oil Rig Explosion In Louisiana Leaves 7 Injured, 1 Still Missing
  • 5 days Aramco Says No Plans To Shelve IPO
Alt Text

Why U.S. Crude Exports Are Booming

U.S. crude oil exports are…

Alt Text

A New Oil Crisis Is Developing In The Middle East

As Iraqi-Kurds prepare to fight…

Alt Text

Footloose Iraq Cannibalizes Saudi Market Share

OPEC’s de-facto leader Saudi Arabia…

Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan runs the popular geopolitics blog Informed Comment where he provides an independent and informed perspective on Middle Eastern and American politics.

More Info

U.S. Files Criminal Charges Against BP Engineer over Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

U.S. Files Criminal Charges Against BP Engineer over Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

Two years after oil from a BP well began gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Department of Justice has filed criminal charges alleging that a former BP employee destroyed critical evidence in the early days of the unfolding disaster.

The charges are the first to be filed in what the Obama administration has called the worst environmental disaster in American history, and they are significant because they target an individual employee for his actions.

According to an affidavit and complaint filed today in a Louisiana court, Kurt Mix, a former drilling and completions engineer, deleted email and text messages he had sent to senior BP managers estimating that the amount of oil spewing into the Gulf was many times greater than the amount stated publicly. Mix was specifically instructed by attorneys contracted by BP to retain his records before he deleted them, the affidavit states.

In a statement released to reporters, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder indicated that more charges are likely, describing the indictment as “initial charges” in an on-going investigation, and saying that the Department of Justice “will hold accountable those who violated the law.”

More than 200 million gallons of crude oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico after a blowout caused the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and the death of 11 workers on April 20, 2010. The spill continued, unabated, for nearly three months. Analysts have long expected criminal charges against BP or its employees.

A spokeswoman for the agency declined to say when more charges might be expected, or to explain why the case against Mix was the first to be made public.

Mix could not be reached for comment, and we were unable to leave him a message because his voicemail was full.

BP issued a statement saying that the company was cooperating with federal investigators and that “BP had clear policies requiring preservation of evidence in this case and has undertaken substantial and on-going efforts to preserve evidence.”

According to an FBI affidavit submitted to the court along with the indictment, Mix, who worked for BP until January 2012, was directly involved in BP’s efforts to understand how much oil was flowing out of the broken Macondo well. On April 21, 2010, Mix estimated that between 68,000 and 138,000 barrels of oil were leaking each day — far more than the 5,000 barrels that were estimated publicly at the time.

On April 22, Mix received the first of six legal notices instructing him to retain his electronic records.
Yet, according to the affidavit, in early October, Mix allegedly deleted a string of more than 200 text messages on his iPhone that he had sent to a supervisor. The deleted texts, which the Department of Justice said were recovered forensically, included sensitive — and pessimistic — internal BP information sent while the company was attempting what it called a “Top Kill” effort to stop the gushing oil on May 26, 2010.

Mix wrote that the effort — which he was directly involved in — was unlikely to succeed. “Too much flow rate — over 15,000 and too large an orifice. Pumped over 12,800 bbl of mud today plus 5 separate bridging pills. Tired. Going home and getting ready for round three tomorrow.”

At the time, BP said publicly that the measure had a 70 percent chance of success.

Mix, 50, was arrested in Katy, Texas today. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on each of the two counts he is charged with.

By. Professor Juan Cole




Back to homepage


Leave a comment
  • Kn on May 11 2012 said:
    There are two parties to each text message. Even if the engineer deleted the text messages, the senior management should still have them. Unless, of course, they deleted them too and they directed the engineer to delete them. But of course, the execs are too big and mighty to prosecute.

Leave a comment




Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News