Judge bars Chevron, Transocean execs from leaving Brazil

STAN LEHMAN
Associated Press

SAO PAULO — Brazilian prosecutors said Saturday they will file criminal charges against 17 executives of Chevron Corp. and drilling contractor Transocean Ltd. for a new oil leak near the offshore well where at least 110,000 gallons (about 416,000 liters) spilled late last year.

Those targeted include George Buck, chief operating officer for Chevron’s Brazilian division, federal prosecutors’ spokesman Marcelo del Negri said by telephone.

He said prosecutors would file the charges including “environmental crimes” in a federal court next week, but he did not provide further details.

Other than Buck, he did not know how many of the executives worked for California-based Chevron and how many for Transocean, the drilling contractor for the well where the leak occurred last year.

Del Negri said a federal judge signed an order late Saturday prohibiting the 17 executives from leaving the country.

In a statement e-mailed Saturday night, Chevron said that neither it nor its executives had been “formally notified of any action by the judiciary” and that “any legal decision will be abided by the company and its employees.”

On Thursday, Chevron confirmed that there was a “small new oil seepage” and said it was working to collect the crude.

The size of the new leak is unknown, Brazil’s National Petroleum Agency, known as ANP said, explaining the leak was detected because an oil slick appeared on the ocean surface.

An ANP spokeswoman said the new leak was “not coming from the well; it’s been sealed. It seems to be coming from fissures on the ocean floor near the well,” where the leak occurred last year. She spoke on condition of anonymity, saying she was not authorized to discuss the matter.

Chevron said in its statement that ANP approved its request to temporarily suspend its activities in order to better understand the reservoirs where it has been drilling.

Ibama, Brazil’s environmental protection agency said in a statement posted on its website that Chevron has until March 20 to provide “detailed information on the action taken to mitigate the environmental impact” of the new leak.

The new leak is another challenge for plans to safely extract oil from the offshore finds Brazil has seen in recent years. It’s estimated at least 50 billion barrels of oil lie off Brazil’s coast, the biggest discoveries in the Americas in three decades.

Oil started leaking from cracks on the ocean floor at the site of a Chevron appraisal well last Nov. 7, about 230 miles (370 kilometers) off the northeastern coast of Rio de Janeiro state. About two weeks later, ANP said that the leak was under control.

Experts had warned, however, that there was a high risk of oil seepage resuming.

Chevron said at the time then that the spill occurred because it underestimated the pressure in an underwater reservoir.

It said that caused crude oil to rush up a bore hole and eventually escape into the surrounding seabed. The oil leaked through at least seven narrow fissures on the ocean floor, all within 160 feet (50 meters) of the well head.

The work at the Frade field in the Campos Basin where the leaks occurred is among Chevron’s “biggest capital investments,” according to the company’s website.

The field produces close to 62,000 barrels of oil a day.

23 Comments

  1. RightWingDino

    Send in the Seals to evacuate these people. Screw Brazil.

    #1
  2. JD

    Just shows it’s more difficult to buy your way out of trouble in Brazil…

    #2
  3. LiveSimply

    Legal hostage taking?

    #3
  4. GotRocks

    Good, they want to go there and help another anti-American government get rich, well then life can be tough.

    But no doubt they will be released, once Chevron pays it’s ransom to that tyrant.

    #4
  5. KB

    Sounds like George Soros is getting business lined up for his investments down there in the few months. Bet he’s on the phone with O right now.

    #5
  6. mark

    Seems like instead of sealing the well in which still allows oil to seep from the fissures. It would be better to pump the well like crazy to relieve pressure from the reservoir.

    #6
  7. BubbaT

    Oh Karma doesn’t like you getting in bed with Soros & Obama.

    #7
  8. CAD1936

    There is a lot to be said for the way Brazil is handling the matter!

    #8
  9. gastonglock

    Hold the Chevronies until they provide a pension increase………it’s been eleven years.

    #9
  10. I’m not at all certain it’s legal for a country to refuse to let a person or persons leave the country when charges have not been filed. Brazil needs to fish or cut bait — either charge the employees of the two companies, or let them go. There’s no “middle ground” here.

    #10
  11. M4

    By my calculations, this 110,000-gallon leak amounted to about 2,000 barrels of oil, a relatively small amount. In contrast, the Deepwater Horizon leak into the Gulf of Mexico amounted to between 3 and 4 *million* barrels of oil. Chevron has suspended production in the area of concern and is working to understand the problem. It seems that the Brazilian prosecutors’ actions are disproportionate to the events as stated in this report (small-magnitude spill; corrective measures being taken). More information is needed to understand why this is happening: are competitors pressuring the prosecution; is there evidence for more systemic neglect on the companies’ part, or what? The reporter should also provide, for comparison, available data on the spontaneous seepage volume in this region.

    #11
  12. Jaba

    Brazil is quickly becoming the next Venezuela. It’s sad, I have many friends that live across Brasil!

    #12
  13. colin james

    “Got Rocks” needs to go for a Brain Injection. What a big void to fill.

    If the Chevron guys have charges to answer, the judge has two options
    a) instruct them to remain in the country until matters are sorted out
    b) throw them in jail.

    I dont see the USA letting anyone travel freely if there is a case to answer.

    Finally, Brazil has a lady president who is busy clearing the stables of corrupt ministers, and continuing the programme of giving financial aid to the poorest family’s. Makes me think that Hilary was a better choice than the current occupier in the White House.

    #13
  14. Locked

    When are they gonna learn. The leak is always someone else’s fault!

    #14
  15. M

    I didn’t realize there were so many Oil folks in Houston who hate upholding laws and respecting a country’s sovereignty. The oil companies are the hostage holders. They hold the US hostage every day

    Great to see some countries are not for sale.
    Bravo Brazil!

    #15
  16. John

    Pattern here w/TransOcean?

    #16
  17. M

    A dispelling of the Beck-initiated myth that clearly many mentally challenged folks still hold on to…..of course from that liberal and socialist mag, Forbes…

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2011/03/17/dispelling-the-petrobras-loan-myth-as-obama-heads-to-rio/

    #17
  18. Monty Video

    You gotta hate the wall to wall TV coverage Chevron’s Brazil troubles and their blowout in Nigeria has been getting on all the news channels. Surely there is something else to cover? Enough of the 24/7 live video already!

    What about March Madness – that IS in my backyard!

    #18
  19. me

    Good! I couldn’t spill oil all over the place in a foreign country and expect to walk away from it. It’s about time someone held polluter to some standards.

    #19
  20. Steve

    Sorry, since when do all you people who are saying how bad the Brazilian government’s actions are want to ignore the rule of law? In Brazil, the law enforced is Brazilian law, not US law. It’s an order signed by a Brazilian federal judge, who presumably knows more about Brazilian law than everyone posting on this article combined.

    And why run down the Brazilian government? They are a freely elected government. I think some you don’t understand that there are people in this world who disagree with your positions on political topics, and that this doesn’t make them wrong somehow.

    #20
  21. airdale

    So Brazil is saying the BP/Transocean guys got off pretty good in our backyard by not being detained after Macondo (Transocean is Swiss based ya know). And shutting down drilling after a 50 million bbl spill is a little more justified than a 110k gallon spill.

    Right.

    #21
  22. POWInTheKisser

    Having dealt with our Brazilian office and their legal intricacies for a recent period of time in my career (and I know they would hate me for it, to put it simply), I would not be affected one bit if all US based companies (multinational or otherwise) were to pull their people, property, and interests out of Brazil. In fact, I would be remiss if the US were to sever any business relations with this “favela” of a country, but I understand that is unrealistic and unattainable with the current level of international commerce involved there. Those people I have dealt with and their government are so dense that I am surprised doing business with them is considered worth the headache to initiate. I’d like to see Soros go in and try to build the oil business there up by himself without any outside assistance, using on Brazilian resources, and see what his tune is afterwards. Wow, I really vented on that one…

    #22
  23. Tommy

    Most likely Petrobras is probably calling the shots and positioning themselves to take over the producing fields once Chevron is kicked out of the country. Chevron has performed the heavy lifting in their exploration and appraisal phases so now the government is deciding that that is enough for now and we will call back later when we decide to explore another block.

    #23