Exclusive: Chevron, Transocean agree to change offshore Brazil procedures

Fri Nov 30, 2012 1:09pm EST
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By Jeb Blount

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Chevron Corp (CVX.N: Quote) and Transocean Ltd (RIG.N: Quote) have agreed to change offshore safety and operating procedures as part of a lawsuit seeking nearly $20 billion in damages from the companies for a November 2011 oil spill, Brazilian public prosecutors told Reuters on Friday.

The agreement, known as a "change-of-conduct accord," was drafted at the companies' request with federal prosecutors who are handling two civil lawsuits against Chevron and Transocean, the prosecutors' press office in Rio de Janeiro said.

The lawsuits are the largest-ever environmental prosecutions in Brazil. The press office declined to give details of the accord but said they would be presented at a public hearing on December 14 in Rio de Janeiro by federal prosecutor Gisele Porto.

Chevron officials were not immediately available for comment. Transocean's press officer in Houston declined to comment. Both companies say they committed no crime and acted correctly during and after the spill.

After the December14 hearing and possible changes, the agreement is expected to be presented to the federal judge in Rio who is hearing the lawsuits.

Porto is lead prosecutor on the civil lawsuits against Chevron, the No. 2 U.S. oil company, and Transocean, the world's largest offshore oil drilling rig operator, for the 3,600-barrel spill in the Frade field northeast of Rio de Janeiro.

No one was hurt in the Frade accident. No oil reached shore and there was no discernible environmental damage, according to Brazil's petroleum regulator, the ANP.

The Frade field was producing 62,000 barrels of oil per day when it was shut in March to examine unexplained leaks in the area near the site of the November 2011 spill. Frade is operated by Chevron, which also owns 52 percent of the field.   Continued...

An aerial view is seen of oil that seeped off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, caused by a well drilled by Chevron at Frade, on the water in Campos Basin in Rio de Janeiro state November 18, 2011. REUTERS/Rogerio Santana/Handout