Petrobrás with Foster as New President

By Laura Madden, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – New Petrobrás CEO Maria das Graças Foster was sworn in yesterday (February 13th) as president of Petrobrás, promising an administration based on dialogue and continuity “without forgetting for a moment” issues of operational safety and environmental. She also highlighted the fact that the first woman appointed to lead one of the largest oil companies in the world. “It’s a great responsibility,” she said.

President Rousseff participates in the inauguration of the president of Petrobras, Maria Silva of Grace Foster, Brazil News

President Rousseff participates in the inauguration of the president of Petrobras, Maria Silva of Grace Foster, photo by Roberto Stuckert Filho/Presidência da Republica.

Foster has her work cut out for her as she comes out of the gate. In addition to overseeing the IBAMA-enforced monitoring plan for the company’s oil leak off the coast of São Paulo resulting in possible administrative sanctions, Petrobrás on Friday announced a fourth quarter profit loss of 52 percent.

On the morning of January 31st, Petrobrás detected a disruption in the flow of oil through the pipeline on FPWSO Dynamic Producer. The security system automatically cut the well off, but an estimated 160 barrels (25,600 litters) of oil leaked into the ocean.

The ship was conducting a Teste de Longa Duração (TLD, or extended well test) in the Carioca Nordeste field of Santos Basin, some 187 miles off the coast of São Paulo state.

The Brazilian environmental agency, IBAMA, was notified immediately, as was the ANP. Petrobrás announced that the spilled oil had been collected by February 2nd. A Brazilian Navy ship remained on location maintaining a 24-hour watch over the cleanup with an IBAMA-imposed environmental monitoring plan is now in place.

The ANP, the Brazilian Navy and IBAMA flew over the affected region by helicopter on February 3rd, followed by a boarding of Dynamic Producer by officials from both agencies. The ANP reported that a Brazilian Navy unit located about 155 miles off the coast of Ilhabela. São Paulo says the oil will not reach the coastline.

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A helicopter flyover by ANP, Ibama and the Brazilian Navy revealed that Petrobrás was indeed cleaning up its January 31 oil leak. Photo by ANP.

This is the third oil spill in three months in Brazil’s waters. In December, the Japanese oil company Modec leaked 10,000 liters of fuel oil into the water near Ilha Grande in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

The American oil giant Chevron sprung a leak in November, resulting in record fines and legal action in conjunction with Transocean, the company performing the drilling of the well.

At the height of the Chevron spill, ANP reported that between 200 and 330 barrels (52,470 litters) of oil a day were being released from the ocean floor. By comparison, the BP deep-water spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year saw over 3,000 barrels of oil a day leaking into the gulf.

In regard to the fourth quarter profit loss of 52 percent, rising operating costs were cited as the reason for the plunge to R$5.05 billion from R$10.6 billion in the same quarter of the previous year.

The Wall Street Journal reported the company expects crude oil production to rise in the first quarter as production wells originally forecast to come onstream late last year are now in operation.

The outlook for 2012 includes additional drilling rigs in 2012, 66 offshore wells compared with 47 wells in 2011, CFO Almir Barbassa said. Petrobras expects to add fifteen drilling rigs in 2012, bringing the total to 34 drilling rigs operating offshore in Brazil.