Exclusive: Brazil prosecutor plans wider offshore oil probe

Fri Mar 30, 2012 6:23pm EDT
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By Sabrina Lorenzi

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A Brazilian federal prosecutor plans to expand his investigation of a November offshore oil spill in a field run by Chevron to areas operated by other companies in the country's main oil region.

The probe will explore geological conditions and operational practices in the Campos Basin in an attempt to prevent future accidents, said Eduardo Santos de Oliveira, federal prosecutor for Campos, Brazil, the city for which the offshore oil province is named.

The biggest operator in the Campos Basin is Petrobras, Brazil's state-led oil company, which operates 39 of the 47 producing fields in the region, according to Brazil's oil regulator, the ANP.

"Now that the working environment has been created (by the Chevron spill), let's promote this debate and use the official investigation tools to try to understand this situation, including for preventative reasons," Santos de Oliveira told Reuters.

Santos in November launched a 20-billion-real ($10.9 billion) civil-environmental lawsuit against California-based Chevron and its drilling contractor Transocean. Earlier this month he filed criminal charges against Chevron, Transocean and 17 of their employees. The crimes alleged by the criminal case carry sentences of up to 17 years in prison.

Chevron is the No. 2 U.S. oil producer.

Other companies with exploration or production operations in the Campos Basin include Anglo-Dutch Shell, Brazil's OGX Petroleo, Spain's Repsol YPF, Denmark's Maersk Oil and UK-based BP.

The Frade field, operated and 52 percent owned by Chevron, is close to some of the largest oilfields in Brazil, including Marlim Sul, Roncador and Marlim, all 100 percent owned and operated by Petrobras.   Continued...

An aerial view shows oil that seeped from a well operated by Chevron at Frade, on the waters in Campos Basin in Rio de Janeiro state November 18, 2011. REUTERS/Rogerio Santana/Handout