By Stephan Eisenhammer and Esmee Verbeek, Contributing Reporters
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The ANP (National Agency of Petroleum) said that on April 8th a leak of “oil droplets” was released from the Roncador Field in the Campos Basin, off the northern coast of Rio de Janeiro. The leak is the seventh attributed to Petrobras since the beginning of 2012, and just 500 meters from the boundary with the Frade Field, where Chevron is being criminally charged for two leaks.
The Petrobras leak was discovered by Chevron, according to an press statement. “Chevron Brazil identified a new small leak on April 7th. Upon further investigation with a remotely operated vehicle, it was found that was the point of the flow outside the boundary of the Frade Field. We notified the operator of the concession of the finding.”
Federal prosecutor Eduardo Santos de Oliveira filed two lawsuits against Chevron, and the rig operator Transocean with claims for damages of R$20 billion each for the two spills.
Petrobras had managed to keep out of the controversy surrounding Chevron’s Frade Field leaks, but told investors last Monday, April 2nd, that it may be financially liable for thirty percent of the damages (as they own thirty percent stake in the field) in the case against Chevron and Transocean for the other spill in the area, on November 8th, 2011.
In an a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Petrobras also denounced the Brazilian prosecutor’s claim, describing it as “unreasonable” and “disproportionately high relative to the extent of the damages caused by the spill.”
Chevron’s research into the March leak showed no relationship between the March and the November leaks. “There is no evidence that the two sets of seeps are related,” Kurt Glaubitz, spokesman for the company, told press.
He explained that analysis of oil samples from the new leak indicated that the oil is not from the Frade production reservoir and that they did not contain drilling mud, making it unlikely that the oil was connected to the drilling process.
The key issue if the leaks are connected has led to the Brazilian prosecutor Eduardo Santos de Oliveira to seek the prohibition of Chevron and Transocean from operating in Brazil, transferring profits made in Brazil abroad, or receiving government-backed financing. “We will continue to take all measures to avoid further disasters and punish the guilty,” Santos de Oliveira said in a statement.
Chevron dismissed the claim outright. “The filing of the second lawsuit is another in a series of outrageous actions brought by the same district attorney who previously filed both a criminal and civil case, all of which are without merit,” the company said in a statement.
The company reiterated that it “will vigorously defend the company and its employees” and stated it was confident that “a transparent and impartial examination of the facts will demonstrate that Chevron and its employees responded appropriately and responsibly to the incident.”
The evidence of another Petrobras leak in the Roncador Field drew the attention of the prosecutor, who in a press statement said he is expanding the research to other companies that operate there. “I’ll look at it very carefully,” said Eduardo Santos de Oliveira, by phone. “It’s very close to the Frade [Field].”