Seventeen Chevron Corp. and Transocean Ltd. executives were banned from leaving Brazil pending an investigation into an offshore oil spill.
The order was signed by a federal judge last week as part of the probe into the 3,000-barrel slick off Rio de Janeiro in November, Marcelo del Negri, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office, said in a telephone interview yesterday. Transocean owned the rig involved in the spill.
The leak at Chevron’s $3.6 billion Frade field occurred at a time when Brazil is increasing scrutiny of deepwater drilling following the 2010 Macondo spill in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, which was about 1,630 times bigger. State and federal lawmakers have criticized Chevron for the spill.
“They took this out of proportion,” Cleveland Jones, an oil specialist and geology professor at Rio de Janeiro State University, said in a telephone interview. “It’s far from the coast and it’s a small volume.”
Seepages are common in regions such as the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea, Jones said.
Chevron has not been notified of the court order yet, Claudia Afflalo, a press officer for Chevron, said in a telephone interview from Rio de Janeiro. Chevron will defend the company and its employees, spokesman Kurt Glaubitz said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. Guy Cantwell, a spokesman for Transocean, declined to comment today.
Last week, Chevron shut what oil production remains at the field after detecting a new leak, Glaubitz said. He called the shutdown temporary and said the company will conduct a geologic study of the area.
Frade was producing about 60,000 barrels a day before last week’s spill.
The filing ordering the executives to stay in the country couldn’t be independently confirmed in court records.
Chevron, the second-biggest U.S. oil company by market value, and the Brazilian Navy identified a “thin” sheen of oil at the Frade field on March 16 that extended about a kilometer (3,280 feet).
Chevron rose 0.3 percent to $110.58 at 10:00 a.m. in New York. It’s up 3.9 percent this year.