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Brazil’s oil spill: Chevron ‘tried to make the accident less than it was’

An original version of this post stated that SkyTruth’s image was taken Nov. 25, of the oil slick on the ocean floor. It was actually taken Nov. 12, of the oil slick on the ocean surface. This version has been corrected.

An oil leak at a Chevron Corp. deep-water well off the coast of Rio de Janeiro this month is not going away. Not for Chevron, which has been met with outrage locally for its mistake, and not for the ocean, which still has an oil slick after two weeks, a byproduct of the 2,400 to 3,000 barrels of crude oil spilled into the sea. +


An aerial view of vessels in the clean up of an oil spill in an offshore field operated by Chevron at the Bacia de Campos, in Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil. (Rogerio Santana/AP)

Regulators are also skeptical of Chevron’s current estimates on how much oil is still leaking from the ocean floor — “infrequent droplets,” according to a company spokesperson. Chambriard scoffs at that. “We are still far from the good end” of resolving the problem, she says. At its height, the leak released 200 to 330 barrels per day. 

“The oil slick may be smaller, but it’s still there,” confirms John Amos of SkyTruth, a group that promotes environmental awareness and protection with remote sensing and digital mapping technology. “And I expect we will see it there for a long time.”

SkyTruth has this image of the oil slick at the ocean surface from satellite imagery taken Nov. 12, before Chevron started plugging the well:


Regulators suspended all of Chevron’s operations in the country this week and plan to fine the oil giant more than $80 million. Rio de Janeiro’s environment minister, Carlos Minc, has said Chevron might be banned from Brazil altogether.

The company says it considers the suspension of its drilling activities in Brazil “premature” and “unnecessary.”

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