Brazil files criminal charges against Chevron, Transocean for oil spill

The Brazilian government yesterday filed criminal charges against Chevron, the second-largest US oil company, Swiss rig-operator Transocean, and 17 of the companies' employees for environmental crimes in connection with an oil leak off Rio de Janeiro's coast.

Nearly 3,000 barrels of oil seeped into the ocean floor near a Chevron appraisal well in the Frade field project off the Rio de Janeiro coast in November after a 400-meter-long (1,312-foot-long) pipeline developed a fracture. The well drilled by Transocean has since been sealed.

The spill was 230 miles (370 kms) off Rio's coast.

San Ramon, California-based Chevron suspended production in Brazil last week after a second leak in the Frade area, but the oil giant said that the oil leak was not from the same field as the November spill.

Chevron claims that the leak was caused when workers encountered unexpected pressure drilling a well in the Campos basin, and tensions escalated after the Brazilian government accused the company of misleading authorities over the incident.

"The spilling of oil affected the entire maritime ecosystem, possibly pushing some species to extinction, and caused impacts on economic activity in the region," Brazil's federal prosecutor Eduardo Santos de Oliveira, said in a filing. "The employees of Chevron and Transocean caused a contamination time bomb of prolonged effect."