Petrobras Finds Oil Seep Near Chevron Spill in Brazil Waters

Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Brazil’s state-run oil producer, reported a seep at its Roncador project near the Chevron Corp. field where 3,000 barrels leaked into the Atlantic Ocean in November.

Drops of crude were detected coming out of the seabed at the Roncador area, Brazil’s petroleum regulator, known as ANP, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. Petrobras, as the Rio de Janeiro-based company is known, confirmed the seep in a separate statement.

The spill at Chevron’s Frade field off Rio de Janeiro’s coast last year, followed by a seep in the same area last month, has triggered several probes against the U.S. oil producer and rig operator Transocean Ltd. in Brazil. Natural seeps are common in oil-rich regions such as the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea, said Hernani Chaves, a geology professor at the Rio de Janeiro State University.

“In the whole world, where there are oil basins it is common to have seeps along the sea floor,” Chaves said in a telephone interview from Rio de Janeiro. “It could be coming from Frade, it could be coming from Roncador.”

Chevron discovered the oil seep at the Roncador field, operated by Petrobras, on April 7 while examining the ocean floor near its Frade project and determined it was outside its concession area, spokesman Kurt Glaubitz said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. The U.S. oil producer halted 60,000 barrels a day of production at Frade last month when it shut the field as a precautionary measure while it studies seeps in the area.

Seep’s Origin

The ANP said it’s testing samples of the oil found at Roncador to determine its origin and expects results within two days. No oil from the leak has reached the surface, according to ANP and Petrobras.

Roncador produced 284,000 barrels a day of oil and natural gas in February, making it Brazil’s second-biggest producing field after Marlim Sul. Both fields are located in the Campos basin off Rio de Janeiro’s coast.

Federal prosecutor Eduardo Santos de Oliveira is suing Chevron and Transocean for 40 billion reais ($22 billion) for the November and March leaks at Frade. He also pressed criminal charges against 17 managers of the two companies in Brazil, seeking penalties of as many as 31 years in prison.

Petrobras dropped 1.3 percent to 21.31 reais at 12:51 p.m. in Sao Paulo. Chevron fell 1.5 percent to $101.92 in New York.

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