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Petrobras, the Brazilian oil company that is intending to drill for oil in up to 3100 metres of water off the East Cape, is the part-owner of an oil field northeast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where a serious oil leak has developed.
So far 90 tonnes of crude oil has leaked into the sea, and an oil sheen can be seen above the 1200 metre deep Frade field.
It is not known how the leak, which is beneath a network of deep sea wells, will be plugged. Divers can only descend to 200 metres to fix wellhead leaks, making deep sea accidents extremely difficult to control.
The field’s operator, Chevron, initially claimed that the spill was a natural event. The company has since admitted that it most likely caused the spill, by over pressurising the oil reserve. This is thought to have fractured rock above the reserve, letting oil escape.
There are currently no deep sea wells in New Zealand waters. But a number of companies, including Petrobras, have plans to drill here for deep sea oil. Anadarko – a part owner of the Deepwater Horizon, the rig which exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico last year, spilling 650,000 tonnes of oil – is planning to start drilling off the North Island’s west coast, and Canterbury, before the end of next year.
“This accident off Brazil yet again shows that deep sea oil is far too risky,” says Simon Boxer, Greenpeace New Zealand Senior Climate Campaigner.
“Deep sea oil drilling employs unproven technologies, to exploit the last drops of oil, in the world’s most pristine areas. New Zealand is far too precious to endanger in this way. And the climate is too important to life on this planet to destroy by going after the last of the fossil fuels,” Boxer says.