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BRASIL - "Tirania da profundidade e da escuridão" o Brasil enfrenta na extração de petróleo de águas profundas (Inglés) Imprimir E-mail
Petróleo en Latinoamerica - Brasil
Miércoles, 14 de Diciembre de 2011 11:47

Brazil faces ‘tyranny of depth and darkness' in drilling for deep-sea oil

RIO DE JANEIRO - From his rickety fishing boat, Alexandre Anderson has watched his daily catch shrink. Over the years, he's also seen sludge from oil leaks and spills - to him an omen of what is to come as Brazil develops some of the world's biggest and most technically challenging offshore oil fields.

"We see big slicks of oil, fish that have changed colors," he said.

But Anderson, 40, head of a fishermen's cooperative, is a lone voice against one of Brazil's most powerful sectors, a rapidly expanding oil industry that in recent years notched important deep-sea discoveries that have united Brazilians in a patriotic fervor. Energy officials here say those "elephant fields" 200 miles offshore have given Brazil one of the world's largest reserves of oil and instantly made a country known more for soybeans and sugar cane a potential rival to heavyweight oil exporters such as Nigeria and Qatar.

Yet signs have emerged that the oil production, in swirling, frigid waters going down five miles, could pose serious hazards in a country that holds itself up as an international leader on environmental matters. In November, an undersea leak at the Frade field operated by Chevron spewed 3,000 barrels about 230 miles off the northeastern section of Rio state, shaking the sense of security that Brazil's regulators had about producing oil along this picturesque coast.

That came on top of the alarm bells for some petro-engineers and oil executives here after BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster last year fouled the Gulf of Mexico with nearly 5 million barrels of crude. Brazilian officials scrambled to learn all they could from U.S. regulators about what had gone wrong at BP's Macondo field, which is in shallower waters than many of Brazil's wells, said safety officials at the national oil company, Petrobras, and the country's oil regulator, the National Petroleum Agency.

As Brazil increasingly banks its energy future on oil, accelerating the spending of $224 billion in a bid to double oil production by decade's end, it is increasingly clear that the very nature of the country's ambitions means heightened hazards.

"The operations, when you go to deeper water, get to be of inherently higher risk, which means unless you do some special things, the likelihood of catastrophic failure increases," said Robert Bea, an American engineer who has worked for Petrobras on risk assessment and has carefully studied the BP disaster. "It's the tyranny of depth and darkness."

In the vast Santos Basin, where the latest fields have been discovered, getting to the oil means drilling through three miles or more of rock and shifting salt. The pressures are intense enough to shatter a sinking ship. The oil can get so hot that as crude rises in ice-cold pipes, there is a danger of waxy buildup and blockage.

And underneath it all is a prize measured in billions of barrels, with each well bore potentially able to produce more than 100,000 barrels daily. "So if that well gets loose," Bea said, "we've got a big problem."

Brazil ‘not a beginner'

Ricardo Cabral de Azevedo, a petroleum reservoir engineer at the University of Sao Paulo who has done research for oil companies here, said the industry is worried about the ultimate fail-safe: the blowout preventer, a complex device that slices through pipe to instantly cap a well in a disaster. At BP's Macondo field, the BOP, as it is known in the industry, suffered compound failures.


FUENTE: The Washington Post