Environmental Protection

Former BP Engineer Convicted in Deepwater Horizon Case

The Department of Justice announced that a federal court jury convicted Kurt Mix, a former engineer for BP plc, on one count of obstruction of justice for intentionally destroying evidence requested by federal authorities investigating the accident.

A jury in U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr.'s New Orleans courtroom convicted Kurt Mix, 52, a former engineer for BP plc, Dec. 18 on one count of obstruction of justice for intentionally destroying evidence requested by federal authorities investigating the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion in April 2010 off the Louisiana coast. Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Anderson of the FBI's New Orleans Division announced it after Duval announced the verdict. Mix, of Katy, Texas, was acquitted on a second count of obstruction of justice; he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on March 26, 2014.

"Today, a jury in New Orleans found that Kurt Mix purposefully obstructed the efforts of law enforcement during the investigation of the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history," Raman said. "This prosecution shows the commitment of the Justice Department to hold accountable those who attempt to interfere with the administration of justice. I want to thank the committed prosecutors and agents who have worked tirelessly over so many years on the Deepwater Horizon Task Force for their dedication and tenacity."

The explosion killed 11 workers on board the drilling rig and caused a major oil spill. Mix was a drilling and completions project engineer for BP, according to DOJ, who worked following the explosion to estimate the amount of oil leaking from the well and also on BP's efforts to stop the leak. "Those efforts included Top Kill, the failed BP effort to pump heavy mud into the blown-out wellhead to try to stop the oil flow. BP sent numerous notices to Mix requiring him to retain all information concerning Macondo, including his text messages," according to the agency's news release. "On or about Oct. 4, 2010, after Mix learned that his electronic files were to be collected by a vendor working for BP's lawyers, Mix deleted on his iPhone a text string containing more than 300 text messages with his BP supervisor. The deleted messages included a text sent on the evening of May 26, 2010, at the end of the first day of Top Kill. In the text, Mix stated, among other things, 'Too much flowrate – over 15,000.' Before Top Kill commenced, Mix and other engineers had concluded internally that Top Kill was unlikely to succeed if the flow rate was greater than 15,000 barrels of oil per day (BOPD). At the time, BP's public estimate of the flow rate was 5,000 BOPD – three times lower than the minimum flow rate indicated in Mix's text."

The release indicates the task force’s investigation is continuing.

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