In the wake of new evidence that Halliburton knew or should have known that the cement they used in drilling the Macondo well was faulty, the precise stakes for the company are becoming clear.
Yesterday, the National Commission created to investigate the tragedy in the Gulf pointed a finger at the oil services firm, saying that several of the company's own tests showed their cement mix might have been unstable.
Halliburton issued a long denial with a multilayered defense of the company's actions. They argue first that there were substantial differences between the mixes they tested and the specific formulation used at the site. Further, they say that BP requested a change in the composition of the mix, but that the stability of the new batch was never tested. And in any case, BP didn't take reasonable safety measures despite warnings from Halliburton and didn't do the proper tests to ensure that the cement job had been done properly.
While Halliburton and BP are trying to deflect blame to each other, in the court of public opinion, there is more than enough blame to go around. Halliburton admitted that it poured a cement mix down a notoriously tough well without testing the stability of its exact composition, even though they had evidence in hand that not all mixes were stabilizing well. As the legal wrangling continues, let's not lose sight of that fact.