Just five months after Chevron lost its drilling rights for causing the largest oil spill in recent memory off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, they've gone and done it again. According to Brazil's National Petroleum Agency (ANP), Chevron has reported that a new leak of indeterminate size has been detected near the site of last November's spill -- and it could present a a major setback for the U.S. oil company's ambitions to drill in the region's oil-rich Frade Field.
Brazilian media is reporting that Chevron has requested a suspension of operations from the ANP as they attempt to contain this latest leak and investigate its cause. The company says they first detected oil leaking from the seabed on March 4, its exact location was not determined until yesterday. This new leak, they say, is located approximately 2 miles from the site of last year's spill and is likely unrelated.No official estimates have been released regarding the amount of oil released by this new leak, though Chevron reports that a small amount has reached the surface.
This latest incident will only create further headaches for Chevron, still dealing with another spill from last November. Following that leak, which loosed some 2,300 to 3,000 barrels of oil 230 miles off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, Chevron was slamed with numerous fines which could exceed $100 million of dollars. Additionally, the company was prohibited from conducting new drilling operations; their work at the original site, however, was allowed to continue.
Despite the manifested risks of deep water oil drilling in Brazil and elsewhere, the burgeoning nation shows no signs of unhinging oil exploration from their energy policy. Since the vast Frade Field was first discovered, Brazil has moved aggressively towards becoming one of the world's leading exporters of petroleum within a decade while steering domestic energy use towards primarily sustainable sources.
While it will be important for Brazilian authorities to levy some nominal consequences on Chevron for these spills, they aren't likely to be scathing -- particularly considering that the company holds 51.74% interest in the Brazil's Frade Field nest egg.