Chevron takes blame for Brazil oil spill

Greenpeace activists protested outside Chevron's offices in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Friday. Photo credit Silvia Izquierdo/ AP.

Greenpeace activists protested outside Chevron's offices in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Friday. Photo credit Silvia Izquierdo/ AP.

Originally published by the Orlando Sentinel.

BRADLEY BROOKS, Associated PressSAO PAULO (AP) — An ongoing oil spill off the Brazilian coast occurred because Chevron underestimated the pressure in an underwater reservoir, the head of the company’s Brazil operations said Sunday.
George Buck, chief operating officer for the Brazilian division of the San Ramon, California-based company, told foreign journalists that Chevron “takes full responsibility for this incident,” and that “any oil on the surface of the ocean is unacceptable to Chevron.”
But Buck rejected accusations the company did not notify authorities quickly enough after the leak was detected and that it did not properly manage cleanup operations.Chevron was drilling an appraisal well about 230 miles (370 kilometers) off the northeastern coast of Rio de Janeiro when the leak began Nov. 7.

The drilling fluid that is pumped down the center of the drill as it works, lubricating and stabilizing the pressure of the bore hole, was not heavy enough to counter the pressure coming from the oil reservoir, Buck said.That caused crude to rush upward and eventually escape through a breach in the bore hole and leak into the surrounding seabed.The oil then made its way to the ocean floor and has since leaked through at least seven narrow fissures, all within 160 feet (50 meters) of the well head on the ocean floor, Buck said.

Brazil’s National Petroleum Agency has said it’s possible more than 110,000 gallons of oil have spilled into the Atlantic Ocean. Buck would not provide an estimate on the total size of the leak, but said the agency figure was “in the ballpark.”

He added that the slick currently contains about 756 gallons (2,860 liters) of oil, a figure not confirmed by Brazilian regulators, though they have said it has been significantly reduced since Chevron successfully carried out the first stage of capping the well Thursday.

Buck estimated that 420 gallons to 4,200 gallons (1,590 liters to 15,900 liters) a day are still leaking from the seabed cracks. He declined to guess when the leaks would stop, saying it was hard to predict how long it would take the oil that rushed up the bore hole to make its way to the ocean floor, or even how much of it eventually would.

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