Petrobras’ Ultra-Deepwater Chinook Field Leaks Hydraulic Oil into Gulf of Mexico

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June 13, 2012

BW Pioneer, image by Petrobras USA

(Dow Jones) RIO DE JANEIRO–Brazilian state-run energy giant Petroleo Brasileiro SA(PBR, PETR4.BR), or Petrobras, said Wednesday a “small leak” of hydraulic fluid was detected during commissioning of a submarine system Sunday at its Chinook field in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

“The fluid was diluted without causing damage to people or the environment,”Petrobras said in an emailed statement. Petrobras said that 1,700 liters of toluene, a solvent, and 2,800 liters of asphalt inhibitor were leaked. U.S. officials were notified immediately of the leak, while the company also set up an internal commission to evaluate the cause of the incident, Petrobras said.

The federal oil company operates both Chinook and a nearby sister field called Cascade, where the company started oil production earlier this year. Cascade was the first U.S. Gulf of Mexico field to feature the use of a floating production, storage and offloading vessel, or FPSO. FPSOs are used extensively for offshore-oil production in Brazil.

The two oil fields are part of an ultradeepwater oil reserve discovered about 250 kilometers off the coast of Louisiana. Petrobras had originally expected to start output at the Cascade and Chinook fields in 2010, but the project was delayed after the U.S. government temporarily suspended deep-water offshore drilling in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. After receiving approval by the U.S. Department of the Interior to use the FPSO in March 2011, production was delayed once again after an equipment failure.

Petrobras is lead operator at Chinook with a 66.7% stake, while a unit of France’s Total SA (TOT, FP.FR), Total E&P, holds the remaining 33.3%.Petrobras holds a 100% stake in the Cascade field.

– By Jeff Fick, Dow Jones Newswires

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