Petrobras, Brazil’s government controlled oil and gas multinational, admitted Monday that minor conservation problems exist on some of the company’s platforms in the Campos Basin, off the country’s south-eastern coast.
The company’s CEO, José Sérgio Gabrielli, said the detected problems would neither threaten workers’ lives nor put the drilling operation at risk, adding that these platforms are waiting for a maintenance process scheduled for October.
“We would never put our workers at risk. All the decisions to maintain operations (on those platforms) were taken because we are sure that though these units need more conservation, they do not threaten the physical integrity of our workers,” he said.
Pictures of the firm’s platform P-33 with signs of rust were published by the Rio’s daily O Globo earlier this month, implying the platform is in poor condition.
The platform workers’ union also issued a formal complaint about the P-33’s condition, forcing the labor ministry and the National Petroleum Agency (ANP) to launch an inspection.
After concluding the inspection, the ANP ordered to shut down P-33 while Petrobras said it has filed appeals against the decision.
Despite public fears over another oil spill tragedy like the one caused by British Petroleum, in the US’s Gulf of Mexico, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva insisted the nation should not be discouraged from getting oil in its coastal waters at a depth of nearly 5,000 meters.
He also believes Brazil has the technology to avoid similar accidents.
The platform in mid-July reported a vapor leak that did not cause any injuries or damage but sparked union complaints.
“With the goal of protecting the safety of operations and the workers … the National Petroleum Agency decided to suspend operations on the P-33 platform until the levels of security required by the (agency) are re-established,” the agency said in a statement.
According to the union Sindipetro spokesperson Marco Breda “it’s some time now since we made an official complaint about the poor safety conditions of P-33 but Petrobras said the situation could wait until October. We believe there are serious risks in continuing to operate in such conditions”.
Breda added that even “the rescue boats system is not working”
The P-33 platform operates the Marlim field in the Santos Basin, off the coast of the state of Rio de Janeiro, with a production capacity of 63,000 barrels per day.
Petrobras said it had not been told by the agency about a closure of the platform.
“As soon as we become aware of the decision, Petrobras will immediately adopt the agency’s technical recommendations as quickly as possible,” the company said in a statement.
In another incident, a small fire broke out at the Petrobras P-35 platform, also in the Campos Basin, the company reported. It said the fire was quickly controlled with no workers injured and no equipment damaged. The company said that fire, which did not affect platform operations, was also caused by a leak in a vapor pipe.
Since the massive BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, some environmentalists have raised questions about Brazil’s offshore oil industry, operating in increasingly deep waters.
Petrobras and Brazilian authorities say safety standards are strong enough to continue deep water operations without threatening the environment.
However Breda pointed out that “we were right when we said that repairs were necessary on P-33. We have claims that other oil platforms have problems from workers on them, some serious, some less serious, but the fact that P-33 operations have been halted for safety reasons is encouraging for the union”.