Petrobras Platform Explosion Kills 5 at Gas Field Off Brazil

Five workers died and four went missing in an explosion on a production vessel at a natural-gas field off Brazil’s coast operated by state-run Petroleo Brasileiro SA, said Norway’s BW Offshore Ltd., the ship’s owner.

The number of confirmed casualties in the explosion aboard the floating production, storage and offloading unit Cidade de Sao Mateus rose from three on Wednesday, and the chances of finding the missing workers alive were slim, said Torfinn Buaroey, senior vice president for Fleet Americas and Europe at Oslo-based BW Offshore.

“That hope is fading, because the ship has been evacuated,” he said in a phone interview Thursday. There were no details available on the cause of the explosion aboard the FPSO, which has been shut down and will be inspected as soon as possible, he said.

Ten other workers were injured and flown to a hospital, Rio de Janeiro-based Petrobras said Wednesday. Most of the killed and injured are BW Offshore employees and Brazilian nationals, Buaroey said. Two are in a critical condition, BW Offshore said in a statement Thursday.

“This is a tragic day, and our primary focus now is on the crew and their families,” BW Offshore Chief Executive Officer Carl Arnet said in a statement. “We cannot rest until the last four of our men are found.”

The accident rocks Petrobras at a time when the company is engulfed in Brazil’s biggest graft scandal, which has already led to the replacement of its chief executive officer.

The FPSO produced mostly gas and some condensate from the Camarupim and Camarupim Norte fields 120 kilometers (75 miles) off the coast of the state of Espirito Santo, Buaroey said. Production was at 2.2 million cubic meters of gas a day, or 3 percent of Petrobras’s gas output, before the platform was shut, the Brazilian company said. The FPSO has been in operation in the area since 2009.

The explosion occurred at 12:50 p.m. local time, when 74 workers were on board. Petrobras owns all of the Camarupim concession and 75 percent of Camarupim Norte, where Ouro Preto Energia has the remaining 25 percent.

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