Oil Spill: Faulty Well Leaks 100,800 Gallons Off Coast Of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Big Oil has a shameful history. That’s why in this series we are highlighting some of its most recent disastrous oil spills and raising awareness of the devastation that will occur if the industry is allowed to drill in the Arctic and off our coasts. Join us in the effort to protect our special places from drilling!
A pressure spike while drilling in the Frade oil field, 230 miles off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil allowed 100,800 gallons of crude oil to be released into the Atlantic Ocean. The 2400 barrels created an oil slick of over 2000 square kilometers towards the south of Brazil. Chevron stopped the drilling of the appraisal well, but only after two long days of oil leaking out of the well and floating to the surface. The faulty design and poor reinforcement of the well are the major issues as to why the well failed. Although there was a blowout preventer in place, the high amount of pressure in the oil reservoir caused the oil to gush into the well. The accumulated pressure eventually ruptured unreinforced rock surrounding the bore hole and the oil seeped out of the poorly designed structure. The oil had to travel through porous rock and crevices till it reached the sea floor, and from there it bubbled up to the surface of the ocean.
Chevron openly admitted that they had not gone about drilling the well in the proper manner and that they had overestimated the strength of the rock surrounding the well and underestimated the pressure in the oil reservoir. They were also ill prepared to deal with an oil spill; they did not even have the equipment needed to locate the spill, and had to borrow from Petrobas, a Brazilian Oil company. Chevron claimed that there were absolutely no environmental issues related to the oil spill, yet humpback and right whales migrate through these waters on their way to breeding grounds during the time of the spill. Oil spills can drastically impact the plankton and other small organisms that the humpback whale relies on for food, decimating their food supply. Oil that is ingested by fish, and then ingested in turn by the whales can lead to death. Another deadly effect of the oil on whales is that the oil can cover their blowholes and prevent them from breathing. The sheer size of the oil slick, over 2000 square kilometers, would certainly have been in the way of the whales migratory paths.
A Brazilian federal prosecutor has now filed criminal charges against Chevron and the drill-rig operator, Transocean, as well as 17 of their employees.They are charged with crimes against the environment. Prison sentences could reach as high as 31 years, and the monetary reparations are placed at 5.6 million per company, and over 500,000 per person. Prosecutor Eduardo Santos de Oliveira said that "Chevron and Transocean have caused a contamination bomb with a prolonged effect."