On Saturday Chevron detected an oil seep in another offshore Brazilian offshore oil field. The leak is 1,600 feet (500 meters) away from a site in the Campos Basin where oil seeped into the Atlantic last November. The news adds to Chevron’s headaches in the region – November’s leak led to a bevy of civil and criminal charges and lawsuits totaling more that $20 billion.
According to Chevron, no evidence of oil is present on the ocean’s surface. Traces, however, were detected leaking out of Roncador field’s seabed, which the Brazilian energy company Petrobras currently manages. The leak renews questions about Chevron’s operations in the region, as well as Brazil’s long-term energy strategy that in part relies on increased production from its offshore oil deposits. Both Roncador and the Frade oil field, where November’s leak occurred, are part of a larger area that contains as many as 100 billion barrels of oil.
The Frade spill was less than 0.1 percent of the size of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Another leak last month caused operations in that same field to cease temporarily until Petrobras and its Japanese partner could determine the leak’s source. No oil from the Frade leak reached Brazil’s shore, no injuries were reported, and the leak was stopped after four days. To that end, some scientists described recent concerns over the Roncador field and other oil leaks in Brazil as exaggerated and noted that many oil seeps in offshore oil basins occur naturally.
Nevertheless the lead prosecutor who has pressed charges against Chevron, Eduardo Santos de Oliveira, has said he will expand his investigation of the company’s operations within the Campos Basin. Meanwhile, Brazil is charging ahead with its offshore oil development plans – the nation is on target to exceed production of 7 million barrels a day by 2020 and will then leapfrog the U.S. to become the world’s third largest oil producer.