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Petrobras admits oil leak off the coast of southern Brazil

Friday, January 27th 2012 - 11:25 UTC
Full article 14 comments
George Buck, CEO of Chevron Brazil unit George Buck, CEO of Chevron Brazil unit

Transpetro, a subsidiary of Brazil's state-run energy giant Petrobras, said Thursday it had detected an oil leak off the coast of Rio Grande do Sul state but did not know how much had spilled.

“An oil leak was detected at a single bay in the Osorio Terminal during offloading from a vessel,” it said in a brief statement.

Petrobras's transportation unit said it was still not possible to estimate how much oil had leaked but said personnel and equipment were deployed to contain and remove the spill off the coast of the southern state.

In November, another oil spill was detected in a well operated by US energy company Chevron near the Frade field, 370 kilometres northeast of the Rio de Janeiro coast. The spill was eventually contained and Chevron was subject to several environmental fines.

The case was a wake-up call for Brazil as it prepares to tap huge underwater oil fields, which the national oil agency ANP says holds reserves that could surpass 100 billion barrels of high-quality recoverable crude.

These fields are off Brazil's southeast Atlantic coast beneath kilometres of ocean, bedrock, and hot salt-beds.

In 2010, Petrobras was the world's third biggest oil producer in terms of market value at 228 billion dollars. By late last month it had fallen to 5th place, with its value down to 156 billion, according to the daily newspaper O Globo.

In related news Reuters reports that a Brazilian prosecutor plans to file criminal charges against Chevron Corp and some of its local managers within weeks, adding the threat of prison sentences to an 11 billion dollars civil lawsuit.

The filing in federal court in Campos, Brazil, will likely include a request for criminal indictment of George Buck, chief executive of Chevron's Brazil unit, as well as other staff, three Brazilian government officials involved in the case.

Transocean Ltd, whose rig was used in the operation, and some of its employees in Brazil are also expected to be charged, according to the officials, who requested anonymity because the case has not been presented to a judge. It is up to a judge to determine whether to accept the charges and proceed with indictments.

Buck and Chevron acted in a “careless and irresponsible way,” an official who investigated the 2,400-barrel spill told Reuters.

The official said it is unlikely that people facing charges will be arrested in the near term or be barred from leaving Brazil. As the case advances and more evidence is collected, however, such measures could be applied, the official added.

Categories: Environment, Brazil.

Top Comments

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  • ChrisR

    So the question is the obvious one: are Brasil going to fine Petrobras millions for the spill like they have the foreigners who only did the same thing?

    I wouldn't like to bet on it.

    Jan 27th, 2012 - 04:14 pm 0
  • Cruzansailor

    I would!

    Jan 28th, 2012 - 08:32 pm 0
  • Rogbahia

    Exactly the question I asked here, after the intention to fine Chevron was published, and I got some very discriminatory (racial even) abuse.
    So here we go, the comparisons will be made along the way, especially by Chevron's lawyers.
    Naturally I agree with fining infractors-it's just a shame the 'Brazilian prosecutor' doesn't go after corrupt politicians with the same voracity!

    Jan 29th, 2012 - 01:58 pm 0
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