Ominous Chevron Oil Spill Off Brazil

 

The Brazilian environmental agency announced it will fine Chevron nearly $28 million—the most allowable under Brazilian law—for the spill underway off the Brazilian coast since 7 November.

Chevron accepts responsibility for the leak, which it says was caused by an underestimation of the pressure in the oil reservoir, plus an overestimation of the strength of the rock containing the reservoir. Chevron’s drill operator is Transocean, Ltd, the same driller for BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig. Chevron’s version of how the problem unfolded, via AP:

The drilling fluid that is pumped down the center of the drill as it works, lubricating and stabilizing the pressure of the bore hole, was not heavy enough to counter the pressure coming from the oil reservoir… That caused crude to rush upward and eventually escape through a breach in the bore hole and leak into the surrounding seabed. The oil then made its way to the ocean floor and has since leaked through at least seven narrow fissures, all within 160 feet (50 meters) of the well head on the ocean floor.

Reuters reports the leak occurred so far from the drilling platform that Chevron originally thought the spill was from a platform or pipeline owned by Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, Petrobras. Chevron was eventually informed of its own leak by Petrobras.

The deep reservoir that Chevron and others are working may hold 100 billion barrels of oil or more, enough to supply the whole US, the world’s largest oil consumer, for 14 or more years. However the reservoir is buried under waters 2 miles deep and under (weak?) rock another 2.5 miles below that—in Chevron’s case, at least, too deep for safe engineering.

The combination of the high-pressure reservoir, weak rock, and a leaking seabed sounds ominous for any hope of quick containment.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.