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Unable to Control Spill Off Coast of Brazil Chevron Tries to Kill and Cement Leak

Frade field off Rio Chevron hasn’t been able to control the oil spill in a well operated by the company in the Campos Basin, Brazil. The well is situated in the Frade Field, 370 kilometers off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, at a depth of 1200 meters.

Chevron has already started proceedings to close and abandon the well. The National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP) issued a statement that approved Chevron’s plan to abandon the well.

The oil company told in a statement that the oil slick is 120 kilometers off the coast of Rio de Janeiro municipality of Campos and moves offshore. Eighteen boats have been assisting in the work of containment.

The containment plan suggests as a first step the use of heavy mud to “kill” the well. Following this the well will be cemented to close the leak permanently. The likely source of the leak is an evaluation well, closed November 9 as a preventive measure.

Chevron estimates that 400 to 650 barrels are leaking daily into the Atlantic Ocean from. Curiously, the ANP puts that leakage at 200 to 330 barrels a day. The oil slick has 163 square kilometers, about half the size of the Guanabara Bay.

The Frade field began production in 2009 and averaged 50,000 barrels per day of output last year. The project is located 370 kilometers offshore northeast of Rio de Janeiro in water depths of approximately 1.200 meters.

“As part of the precautionary suspension of development drilling activities at Frade, Chevron Brazil has closed in a well it was drilling in the vicinity of these oil seeps,” the statement said.

In the statement, Chevron reiterated that it notified the appropriate government agencies about the accident and was working with partners to deploy response vessels to control the sheen and minimize any environmental impact.

The decision to stop operations in Frade followed a statement from President Dilma Rousseff’s office that described the incident as “an oil spill at the Frade field … in a new well that was being drilled by the company Chevron Brazil.”

Rousseff’s office urged an investigation to determine the causes of the accident and assess who was responsible.

A sub-sea vehicle deployed by Chevron found the source of a seep, where hydrocarbons naturally escape from underground. Investigations into the sheen’s causes were continuing, Chevron said.

The leak is in the Campos Basin, which accounts for the bulk of Brazil’s oil output off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state. Brazil’s output is currently about 2 million barrels of crude per day.

The Brazilian government is taking seriously the issue of oil leaks as it undertakes a massive deep sea oil plan. Controls on offshore oil production were ramped up after the three-month spill in a field operated by BP deposited about 5 million barrels of oil into U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

New Zealand’s Fear

There are currently no deep sea wells in New Zealand waters. But a number of companies, including Petrobras, have plans to drill there for deep sea oil and Greenpeace has been leading a movement to prevent any off shore drilling in that country.

Anadarko – a part owner of the Deepwater Horizon, the rig which exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico last year, spilling 650,000 tons of oil – is planning to start drilling off the North Island’s west coast, and Canterbury, before the end of next year. 

“This accident off Brazil yet again shows that deep sea oil is far too risky,” says Simon Boxer, Greenpeace New Zealand Senior Climate Campaigner.

“Deep sea oil drilling employs unproven technologies, to exploit the last drops of oil, in the world’s most pristine areas. New Zealand is far too precious to endanger in this way. And the climate is too important to life on this planet to destroy by going after the last of the fossil fuels,” Boxer says.

Bzz/MP

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