By Jeb Blount, Reuters
Brazil's state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA could face new production stoppages on platforms in the Campos Basin if it does not resolve lingering safety issues, the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper reported on Sunday.
The company, best known as Petrobras, has improved safety standards in its offshore fields in the last two years but needs to improve "a lot"," a federal labor-law prosecutor, Mauricio Coentro, told the newspaper.
If continuing problems are not resolved, platform shutdowns may be necessary, he added.
The paper said there have been eight accidents since November in the Campos Basin, located east and northeast of Rio de Janeiro, where Brazil gets 80 percent of its 2.11 million barrels per day of oil output.
A union representing platform workers said there have been three serious accidents, two fires and an explosion, since December.
Petrobras told Folha it was improving inspection and maintenance, and all its platforms met industry and government standards.
Petrobras officials did not immediately respond to e-mailed and telephoned requests for comment from Reuters.
Floating oil platforms are home to dozens of workers and contain powerful pumps, cranes and other heavy equipment needed to process flammable oil and natural gas. Their locations as much as 300 kilometers (186 miles) offshore can complicate emergency responses.
Many Petrobras platforms are actually converted oil tankers that store hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil aboard for days.
Petrobras output has stagnated for more than two years as new fields have been delayed, output from old fields has declined and the government has ordered platform shutdowns to perform emergency maintenance.
Further stoppages could limit production increases expected with the start-up of new platforms this year.
Most of the emergency maintenance was carried out in the Campos basin. Some platforms in the region are three decades old.
In November, Petrobras signed an adjustment of conduct agreement with labor prosecutors promising to improve safety problems and better maintain equipment such as gas-leak detection gear, Folha said.
That agreement was signed after prosecutors, backed by the Navy, Brazil's environmental protection agency, Ibama, and other regulators, inspected five platforms.
They found violations including unusable lifeboats, improper treatment of waste, unmarked escape routes, rusted-out safety equipment and disabled detection devices, Folha reported.
(Editing by Sophie Hares)