A federal prosecutor in Rio is already suing the companies for $11bn in damages and last week demanded prison sentences for 17 of their employees, including 31 years in jail for the head of Chevron’s Brazilian operations, George Buck.
A Brazilian prosecutor plans to allege this week that Chevron and Transocean should not have drilled a deep-water well that leaked in November, legal documents showed, giving a glimpse into expected criminal charges that could slow the rush to develop Brazil’s vast offshore oil wealth.
The accident cracked geological structures in the reservoir and oil will continue leaking from the field until it is emptied, the prosecutor Eduardo Santos de Oliveira told Reuters in a telephone interview on Monday.
The prosecutor’s comments expanded on his investigations and police reports being used to assemble criminal indictments against U.S. oil company Chevron, drill-rig operator Transocean, and 17 of their executives and employees.
A Brazilian court has ordered 17 employees from two American companies, the oil giant Chevron and the rig operator Transocean, to surrender their passports, barring them from leaving Brazil as authorities prepare to file criminal charges in days in connection with an offshore oil spill involving the companies.
The ruling by Judge Vlamir Costa Magalhães, issued late Friday night, adds to Chevron’s woes in Brazil, which began last November when oil was found to be leaking from an offshore field controlled by Chevron. Prosecutors have already filed a civil lawsuit seeking damages of 20 billion reais, or about $11.2 billion, from the company.
Brazil’s Navy and Chevron said Friday that they had detected a new oil sheen from the field where the earlier spill occurred.
Joshua Shcneyer and Jeb Blount – Reuters, 03/12/2012
George Buck, a slim, towering American who runs Chevron’s (CVX.N) operations in Brazil, is often flanked by lawyers these days.
Since November, when the No. 2 U.S. oil company spilled at least 2,400 barrels of oil offshore Brazil, the local attorneys have helped Buck navigate the legal system, sometimes doubling as Portuguese translators and cultural consultants.
The soft-spoken engineer, in the country since 2009, has good reason to measure his words. Chevron is being sued for more than $11 billion by Brazilian prosecutors, although its leak was less than 0.1 percent the size of BP’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Officials say they are preparing criminal charges against Chevron, Buck and several of his colleagues.
The size of the oil slick at a well operated by U.S.-based Chevron Corp. off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state is more than 80 percent smaller than it was four days ago, said Brazil’s National Petroleum Agency Tuesday.
The agency said in a statement that the slick at the water’s surface covered 0.78 square miles (two square kilometers), compared to the 4.63 square miles (12 square kilometers) registered on Nov. 18.
The agency also said the oil slick continues moving away from Brazil’s coastline.
U.S. oil company Chevron will fully clean up a spill off Brazil’s coast, George Buck, the CEO of the local subsidiary said on Sunday, taking responsibility for an accident that has become a major test for one of the world’s fastest-growing oil frontiers.
About 18 vessels were supporting well-plugging operations and sheen cleanup, the company said in a later statement, adding that no new oil was being emitted.
Buck said the leak from the undersea well, owned in partnership with Brazil’s state-controlled Petrobras and a Japanese consortium, has been plugged.