The chief executive officers of Chevron Corp.’s and Transocean Ltd.’s Brazilian units are among 17 executives at the two companies banned from leaving the country pending an investigation into an offshore oil spill.
Chevron’s George Buck and Transocean’s Michael Legrand were on the list of managers that federal prosecutors asked Judge Vlamir Costa Magalhaes to ban from leaving Brazil, according to a copy of the request sent today by Marcelo Del Negri, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office. The judge issued the ban March 16, referring to the “people listed” on the request.
The Nov. 7 leak of 3,000 barrels of oil at Chevron’s $3.6 billion Frade field off the coast of Rio de Janeiro occurred at a time when Brazil is increasing scrutiny of deepwater drilling following the 2010 Macondo spill in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, about 1,630 times bigger. Transocean owned the rig involved in the spill, which state and federal lawmakers have criticized.
“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, referring to Brazil’s reaction to the leak. “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 the company, said in a telephone interview from Rio de Janeiro. Chevron will defend itself and its employees, spokesman Kurt Glaubitz said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. Guy Cantwell, a spokesman for Transocean, declined to comment today.
The executives “appear to have foreign citizenship or financial conditions and clear motives to want to leave the country,” Costa Magalhaes said in the order. Their departure “at this time and under the current circumstances, would pose great risk to the investigation and the eventual application of the criminal law,” he said.
Last week, Chevron shut what oil production remains at the field after detecting a new leak, Glaubitz said. He said the shutdown was temporary and the company will conduct a geologic study of the area.
Frade was producing about 60,000 barrels a day before last week’s spill.
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 0.5 percent to $110.80 at 3:50 p.m. in New York.