Rigs Back on After New Unexplained Brazil Oil Spill

Tuesday, May 29, 2001
Petrobras put 12 offshore oil rigs back into operation on May 26 following a stoppage on two days earlier that was due to a second unexplained oil spill in a week, officials said. Petrobras resumed operations after concluding the oil in the slick was different to that produced at the rigs, a Petrobras spokesman said.

"All rigs, underwater pipelines and systems are in perfect order," the spokesman said.

Petrobras, which has experienced a series of oil spills in the past two years, has said production losses from the stoppage, which occurred in the northern zone of the Campos oil field, were 120,000 bpd - nearly nine percent of Brazil's overall daily output. Natural gas output losses were 830,000 cubic meters a day.

A week earlier, a similar stoppage occurred in the same area.

Environmental officials said they did not want to jump to conclusions and blame Petrobras before the origin of the oil has been detected. They said the area where the slick appeared also lay close to tanker routes.

"They resumed production in the northern area of Campos, but will be monitoring for any spills," said Carlos Mendes, chief coordinator for government's environmental agency Ibama in Rio de Janeiro state.

"Starting from Monday, they will inspect neighboring Marlim area as the characteristics of the oil in the slick remind them of Marlim oil," he added.

Petrobras said its retention barriers and boats had managed to reduce the oil slicks to 20,800 gallons from approximately 31,200 gallons of crude. Both were moving away from the coast. Clean up efforts will continue.

Mendes said the spill was "relatively small," but troublesome because the leak could not be detected in either of the cases. "...It's strange and is getting stranger every time," he said.

Petrobras also concluded the oil from the first slick 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. "There will be no fine, either, until it is proven whose oil that is," he added."

A senior Petrobras official 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. The platform still lies deep on the ocean floor. Last week, output at 13 offshore platforms in the area was stopped for two days with production losses of 135,000 bpd and 830,000 cubic meters of natural gas a day. Petrobras' average daily output so far this year has been 1.38 million bpd. Last year, Petrobras caused a series of embarrassing oil disasters, including a major spill in Rio de Janeiro's world-famous picturesque Guanabara Bay. - (Reuters)

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