Former BP Engineer Convicted for Obstruction of Justice

Posted by Michelle Howard
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Kurt Mix (Photo: Jonathan Bachman/AP)

Kurt Mix, a former engineer for BP plc, was convicted today of intentionally destroying evidence requested by federal criminal authorities investigating the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Acting 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 made the announcement after the verdict was announced by U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr.

Mix, 52, of Katy, Texas, was convicted by a federal jury in the Eastern District of Louisiana of one count of obstruction of justice and 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,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman.   “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.”

According to court documents and evidence at trial, on April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon rig experienced an uncontrolled blowout and related explosions while closing the Macondo well.  The catastrophe killed 11 men on board and resulted in the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Mix was a drilling and completions project engineer for BP.  Following the blowout, Mix worked on internal BP efforts to estimate the amount of oil leaking from the well and was involved in various 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.

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.

By the time Mix deleted these texts, he had received numerous legal hold notices requiring him to preserve such data and had been put on notice of the Department of Justice’s criminal investigation of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The Deepwater Horizon Task Force, based in New Orleans, is supervised by Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman and led by William Pericak, a deputy chief in the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section who serves as the director of the task force.  The task force includes prosecutors from the Criminal Division and the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana and other U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and investigating agents from the FBI, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Interior, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal law enforcement agencies.  The task force’s investigation of this and other matters concerning the Deepwater Horizon disaster is ongoing.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Jennifer L. Saulino and Trial Attorney Leo R. Tsao of the Fraud Section.

Maritime Reporter March 2014 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

People & Company News

HHI to Deploy 3DEXPERIENCE Design Platform

Hyundai Heavy Industries Selects Marine & Offshore Industry Solution Experiences for Design and Engineering of Offshore Structures Dassault Systèmes,

Huisman Debuts Rope Luffing Knuckle Boom Crane

In order to provide reliable solutions for subsea installation in increasingly deeper water and offshore construction in severe weather conditions, Huisman introduces

Scafi Expands Fleet with Italian Damen Tug

Damen is to construct a new ASD 3212 tug for Scafi, the Italian shipping group that includes a number of international towing companies. The contract cements their

Legal

Court: Japan's Mitsui Paid to Release Ship

China Supreme Court says Mitsui pays about $29 mln; Ship released about 0030 GMT Thursday. Ship was seized over dispute dating back to 1930s. Advisor to plaintiffs says will likely demand more money.

Lawyer: Korea Ferry Owners Accept Responsibilities

The family that has a major stake in companies that control the shipping operator whose ferry sank last week, likely to have killed hundreds, will take social and

Mitsui O.S.K. Ship Ready To Leave Chinese Port

Japanese shipping firm Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd said on Thursday that its ship, the "Baosteel Emotion" 226,434 deadweight-tonne ore carrier, is ready to leave

Environmental

Marine Diesel Purification Breakthrough by SurePure

Liquid photopurification specialist company SurePure Inc. apprises of a breakthrough in the microbiological purification of contaminated marine diesel fuel, using

Huge Iceberg Broken off Antarctica Heads for Open Ocean

Scientists are monitoring an iceberg roughly six times the size of Manhattan - one of the largest now in existence - that broke off from an Antarctic glacier and is heading into the open ocean.

Offshore Oil & Gas: Brazil’s Northern Frontier

In an effort to spread out oil and gas production to other parts of the country and increase overall oil production, Brazil has finally intensified hydrocarbon

News

Mammoet Uses World’s Biggest Crawler Crane to Install Legs on Ship

Mammoet, a global company in engineered heavy lifting and transport, said it is currently employing its LR13000, the biggest crawler crane in the world, to install

Huisman Debuts Rope Luffing Knuckle Boom Crane

In order to provide reliable solutions for subsea installation in increasingly deeper water and offshore construction in severe weather conditions, Huisman introduces

Scafi Expands Fleet with Italian Damen Tug

Damen is to construct a new ASD 3212 tug for Scafi, the Italian shipping group that includes a number of international towing companies. The contract cements their

People in the News

Atkins Gain Maersk Oil Engineering Contract

Design, engineering and project management consultancy Atkins, says it has been awarded an engineering support contract covering three of Maersk Oil’s UK assets in the North Sea.

Body Of Korean Boy Who Raised Alarm On Sinking Ferry Found

The body of a South Korean boy whose shaking voice first raised the alarm that a passenger ferry with hundreds on board was in trouble has been found, his parents believe,

Cool Runnings: R.W. Fernstrum's Engineered Solutions

A hallmark of the global maritime industry is the proliferation of smaller, family founded and managed businesses. R.W. Fernstrum is one such company: a ubiquitous

Offshore Energy

Norway's Oil Sector May Face More Project Cuts, Delays

More oil and gas projects in Norway could be put on hold because of rising costs, adding to a growing list of developments that have been delayed or called off,

Diamond Offshore profit falls as rig demand softens

Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc, one of the world's top five offshore rig contractors, reported a 17 percent drop in quarterly profit as demand fell for rigs used in deep water drilling.

Atkins Gain Maersk Oil Engineering Contract

Design, engineering and project management consultancy Atkins, says it has been awarded an engineering support contract covering three of Maersk Oil’s UK assets in the North Sea.

 
 
Maritime Contracts Maritime Standards Naval Architecture Pod Propulsion Salvage Ship Repair Ship Simulators Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction Sonar Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.3118 sec (3 req/sec)