March 15, 2001 Explosions at World's Largest Offshore Oil Platform Leads to 11 Deaths, Structure Sinking
Scientists said the environmental impact would likely be negligible. The lighter diesel oil tends to evaporate in a few days, while the crude oil would separate and the heavier sediment would sink. ``It would be different if it were in a bay or on the coast, but the open sea is relatively sterile, and fish can just avoid it,'' said Paulo Cesar Rosman, professor of coastal and oceanographic engineering at Rio's Federal University. Petrobras reiterated that deep-ocean well heads were well sealed, thus preventing a larger disaster.
The cause of the accident is currently being investigated. A Petrobras committee assigned to the task is expected to release its report on April 20, 2001. Another investigation ordered by Petrobras President Henri Philippe Reichstul found it was acceptable the head office had not been notified of the fault at the platform. ``There is no indication of foul play or deliberate concealment of information,'' Petrobras director of exploration and production Jose Coutinho Barbosa told a news conference. Symptoms that there was something wrong with the platform is apparently documented in daily drilling reports in the days leading up to the tragedy. The bulletins said, in part, "pressurization in the platform vent system. Likely cause is blockage of flame damper.'' "A shutdown in production will be necessary to substitute it since it is very near the gas burners in the flame tower,'' the bulletins advised. Petrobras directors said the managers of the platform had ordered a replacement for the faulty part and were waiting delivery. In the meantime a drain had been installed to prevent buildup of pressure in the tank that eventually blew up. The directors also said the chief and several supervisors had the authority to shut down production at any time. Coutinho Barbosa said the company did not know if the faulty item played a part in the accident. A commonly discussed theory is that natural gas accumulated in the support column of the platform where the blasts occurred, and water later got into other compartments, causing the sinking of P-36. AcuSafe will share the conclusions of the investigation as they become available.
Chronology of Petrobras Incidents
September 1991 - Petrobras tanker dumped up to 150,000 barrels of oil off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state.
December 1991 - One crew member died after company tanker explosion off Sao Paulo state coast.
April 1992 - The Madre de Deus refinery near Salvador in Bahia state dumped 12,800 gallons (48,000 liters) of oil into the bay.
November 1995 - One person died and five were wounded in a pipeline fire in Sao Paulo.
August 1998 - Company tanker polluted prime Sao Paulo beaches with 4,000 gallons (15,000 liters) of oil.
March 1998 - An explosion at Petrobras-owned Petroflex rubber plant in Rio de Janeiro injured four.
June 1998 - A Petrobras fertilizer factory in Salvador, Bahia exploded and caught on fire.
December 1998 - A fire at the company's Gabriel Passos Refinery in Minas Gerais killed three workers.
April 1999 - A faulty pipeline spewed 266 gallons (1,000 liters) of oil near the coastal city of Sao Sebastiao, off Sao Paulo.
August 1999 - A Petrobras pipeline broke in Bahia state spilling 13,300 gallons (50,000 liters) along coastal land.
January 2000 - Petrobras spilled 346,600 gallons (1.3 million liters) of oil in Brazil's famous Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro.
July 2000 - Petrobras spilled 1 million gallons (4 million liters) of oil into Iquacu river, in Parana state.
January 2001 - Two workers died from a fire on a Petrobras offshore natural gas platform P 37 in Campos Basin.
February 2001 - Petrobras spilled 13,300 gallons (50,000 liters) of diesel fuel near Parana state capital Curitiba.
March 2001 - Blasts tear through the world's biggest offshore oil rig owned by Petrobras killing 10 people.
Petrobras' web site contains further press releases about the tragedy. See http://www.petrobras.com./ingles/pop/padrao/p36_ri.htm.
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