By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The first stage of the operation to cement shut a leaking Chevron oil well 230 miles (370km) off the Rio de Janeiro coastline appears to have been successful, officials at the ANP – Brazil’s oil regulator – have said, with underwater images showing just a “residual flow” continuing to leak from the seabed.

Support vessels are at the scene some 230 miles off the Rio coastline to minimize any environmental impact caused by the oil slick, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Support vessels are at the scene attempting to minimize any environmental impact caused by the oil slick, photo by Divulgação/Chevron Brazil.

Officials also said the slick was “moving away from the coastline and breaking up”, and Chevron said the operation at the well should be completed in the next few days.

Brazil’s Mining and Energy Minister Edison Lobão said the U.S. oil giant would be “severely punished” if it does not meet its environmental responsibilities, but that the oil spill was not as serious as had previously been announced.

However, environment campaigners Greenpeace said that any environmental impact would only become apparent “in the medium to long term,” and other environment activists – Skytruth – said satellite imagery showed the slick was actually much bigger than announced.

Meanwhile an investigation is underway by Federal Police as to whether Chevron drilled lower than it was meant to.

The oil spill started eight days ago at the Chevron-operated Frade Project oil fields in the Campos Basin off the Rio state coastline.

Brazil’s discovery of billions of barrels of oil in deepwater reserves, known as “pre-salt”, are predicted to make it one of the world’s top five producers, but the distribution of the royalties is still causing tension between Brazil’s oil-producing and non-producing states.

Read more in Portuguese.

* The Rio Times Daily Update is a new feature we are offering to help keep you up-to-date with major news as it happens.

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