From: Sabrina Lorenzi, Reuters, RIO DE JANEIRO
Published November 15, 2011 06:58 AM

Chevron suspects drilling caused Brazil oil spill

Chevron Corp. said on Monday an appraisal well drilled at the U.S. company's Frade field last week might be contributing to an oil spill, in line with early assessments by government officials.


Earlier in the day, the head of the oil regulatory agency ANP said that drilling likely increased pressure on the area where the well is located, leading to the leak. The appraisal well was closed in at surface last week as a part of Chevron's precautionary suspension of drilling activities.

"There has also been significant progress on investigations into the source and cause of the oil that had been detected coming from a small number of seep lines in the vicinity of a Frade development drilling operation," the statement said.

Chevron, which previously had found no definitive evidence that the drilling could be a cause for the leak, is boosting efforts to close and abandon the appraisal well, the statement said.

Oil seeps have created a "sheen" with a volume of 400 to 650 barrels of oil on the ocean in the area, which lies 370 kilometers (230 miles) northeast of Rio de Janeiro.

President Dilma Rousseff on Friday urged a thorough investigation of the incident, which may increase scrutiny of safety in Brazil's offshore operations as it seeks to tap huge, newly found reserves and become a major oil exporter.

"What was detected is that with the drilling, there was an increase in pressure and there was a crack in the rock which caused the oil to leak to the surface," ANP Director Floriano Carvalho told Reuters.

Carvalho said the leak is continuing and that the ANP had authorized Chevron to cap the well. Chevron had previously said it suspended drilling the well, but that production was continuing. The company maintains that production activities are unrelated to the oil seeps.

Chevron said it had up to eight vessels working at the "sheen," and "continues to engage resources from Chevron Corps global response team" to control the spill.

Photo Credit: Chevron

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