A former BP Plc engineer was arrested and charged on Tuesday with trying to destroy evidence related to how much oil was spilling from the company's broken well in the Gulf of Mexico in April of 2010, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Kurt Mix, 50, was accused of trying to delete text messages between him and a supervisor that included "sensitive internal BP information collected in real-time" as BP tried to stop the leak, the Justice Department said.
Mr. Mix was charged with two counts of obstruction of justice for allegedly deleting records related to the amount of oil flowing from the Macondo well after the blowout.
The spill was found after BP's troublesome Macondo deepwater well blew out, causing deadly explosions aboard Transocean Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed 11 men and sank the rig. It was the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, with more than 4 million barrels of oil leaking into the basin before BP finally killed the well in September 2010.
Mr. Mix, a drilling and completions engineer for BP before he resigned in January this year, worked on various efforts to stop the leak, including a "top kill" that involved pumping heavy mud into the ruptured well to try to push back the oil.
Prosecutors alleged in an affidavit that in October 2010, when Mr. Mix learned his electronic files were going to be collected by a vendor working for BP's lawyers, he deleted hundreds of text messages about the top kill that indicated it was failing as top BP officials said publicly that it was "broadly proceeding according to plan."
BP had "sent numerous notices to [Mr.]Mix requiring him to retain all information concerning Macondo" before he allegedly deleted messages, the Justice Department said.
Those deleted texts included one that said the well's flow rate was higher than BP scientists had said it would be if the top kill was working.
BP said in a statement it would not comment on the case. It was co-operating with the Justice Department and other official probes of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and has clear policies requiring preservation of evidence.