Brazilian Oil Spill Latest in Unexplained Series : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Saturday May 26 12:51 PM ET

Brazilian Oil Spill Latest in Unexplained Series By Andrei Khalip

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Reuters) - Brazil's state oil giant Petrobras (news - web sites) was cleaning up a small oil spill on Saturday off the coast of Rio de Janeiro which environmental officials called troubling because it was the latest in a series of unexplained spills.

Petrobras, infamous for a series of spills over the past two years, shut 12 oil rigs, responsible for nearly 9 percent of Brazil's oil output, on Thursday night after detecting an oil slick on the ocean surface.

Company officials said boats using retention barriers were cleaning up oil in the northern part of Campos basin, while engineers were still checking for leaks in the system.

They could not say when production would be resumed.

Carlos Mendes, chief coordinator for government environmental agency Ibama, said the agency was monitoring the clean-up effort and planned to audit the investigation.

Speaking from Rio de Janeiro, Mendes said that as of Friday night, there were two oil slicks some 55 miles off the coast, one of approximately 29,000 gallons and another of some 2,230 gallons of crude.

Both were moving away from the coast.

``The spill is relatively small. But it's strange and is getting stranger every time,'' Mendes said, referring to a similar accident last week, when a slick of about the same size was detected in the same area.

Petrobras concluded at the time that the oil did not come from any of its rigs in the area. Mendes denied local media reports that Petrobras could be ordered to stop all production if it did not find out where the oil was coming from.

A senior company source told Reuters on Friday the area where the slick appeared lay close to tanker routes and over the intersection of several underwater pipelines.

He ruled out any connection with the sinking of Petrobras' biggest oil rig in the basin. The March incident, triggered by a series of blasts that killed 11 crew members, led to a major oil spill.

Mendes said he considered Petrobras' clean-up measures adequate for this kind of spill. ``They are using oil retention barriers, which is enough. Dispersing agents have not been used,'' he added.

Oil production losses accounted for 120,000 barrels of crude per day, or nearly 9 percent of Petrobras' average daily output of 1.38 million bpd so far in 2001. Petrobras also halted natural gas production of 830,000 cubic meters a day.

A week ago, output at 13 offshore platforms in the area was stopped for two days with production losses of 135,000 barrels of crude per day and 830,000 cubic meters of natural gas a day. Production was resumed last Friday after Petrobras said the composition of the oil in the slick was different from those of the crude produced in the area.

-- Martin Thompson (, May 26, 2001

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