Rio Spill corrosion and faulty software : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

WIRE:01/22/2000 19:17:00 ET Volunteers work to clean mess as oil spill continues to spread in Rio RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ Hundreds of volunteers and experts cleaned up muck-covered beaches and tried to save endangered birds Saturday as the massive oil spill polluting Rio's Guanabara Bay continued spreading.

The work continued four days after a pipeline sprung a leak and spewed 338,000 gallons of crude oil into the bay, according to Petrobras, the government-owned oil company. Local environmentalists say it is the worst ecological disaster to hit Rio de Janeiro in a decade.

CBN Radio reported Saturday that Petrobras President Henri Phillipe Reichstul has fired the company's corporate and environmental affairs directors as a result of the spill. He apparently held them responsible for corrosion that caused the pipeline to leak and faulty software that he said allowed the accident to go unnoticed for several hours.

The oil slick spread through the Guapimirim and Jequia mangrove swamps, both protected areas and important spawning grounds for fish, birds and crustaceans. State biologists said it would take decades for nature to undo the damage.

Winds and tides carried the oil toward the mouth of the bay and the open sea, prompting Rio de Janeiro Governor Anthony Garotinho to urge Petrobras to put down more barriers to contain the spread. Despite the drift seaward, the state environmental office said it was unlikely the oil would reach ocean beaches such as Copacabana or Ipanema.

As the spill widened over more than 16 square miles, hundreds of workers and volunteers took to the beaches in hard-hit areas to mop up the oil and dump it into steel drums. Other volunteers helped biologists wash off oil-blackened birds and crabs.

President Fernando Henrique Cardoso has said the $27.5 million fine the government is likely to slap on Petrobras will be used to pay for the cleanup.

-- Martin Thompson (, January 23, 2000


UPDATE: Petrobas Oil now blames the oil spill on pipeline thermal expansion and the resulting instability that created. They also said the delay in discovering the 4 hour leak (not 2 hour) was due to human error.

I would side with the company's anonymous employee who first blew the whistle about faulty computer software....


Tuesday, January 25, 2000

World Watch News

Brazil slaps fine on Petrobras for oil spill

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Brazil's government on Tuesday slapped the maximum penalty for environmental crime on its state oil giant Petrobras for a major spill in Rio's scenic bay, its worst ecological disaster in 25 years.

The president of Petrobras, which admitted a week ago that its flagship refinery had oozed a whopping 1.3 million liters of fuel oil into the city's Guanabara Bay, said the company would pay the 50 million reais ($28 million) fine along with all other clean-up costs. "It's the big responsibility of a major oil company to pay for all of the expenses for this operation," said Henri Philippe Reichstul, who only took over the reins of the Rio-based oil and natural gas Goliath last April.

Petrobras is facing sharp criticism for the leak, the worst in Rio's bay since a foreign tanker dumped 6 million liters of oil there in 1975. Environment Minister Jose Sarney Filho described it as a "disaster of gigantic proportions."

Also on Tuesday, the company issued its initial investigation report, which blamed the accident on a pipeline that ruptured due to a combination of thermal expansion causing pressure inside the duct and unstable footing underneath it.

In a surprise disclosure, the report said human error meant the leakage continued for four hours instead of two before being detected, allowing for 600,000 more liters to escape.

A source within the company, quoted anonymously in local media, had originally blamed the delay in discovering the enormous spill on a computer software glitch at the refinery.

But the report said there were "strong indications" that one of the regular procedural checks on volumes going in and coming out of the pipeline had not been done.

The report did not cite the names or job descriptions of the employees responsible for the oversight.

Brazil's federal police, in a separate criminal investigation, plan to question company executives including Reichstul and the superintendent of the leaky refinery, Kuniyuki Terabi.

The attorney general is also expected to summon two former Petrobras directors, plus those refinery employees on duty at the time of the leak. The company sacked its corporate affairs director and environment superintendent over the weekend.

Three specialists from the government's environment agency IBAMA will assess the spill's impact and deliver their findings by Thursday. The 15-square-mile (40 sq km) oil slick has spread across the back of the bay and reached Ilha do Governador, the island site of Rio's international airport 12 miles (20 km) from the main tourist beaches - - so far viewed as free of risk.

But it has left a slimy black coating over a number of small beaches and four protected mangrove swamps extending over 3,700 acres (1,500 hectares). Volunteers have mounted a desperate campaign to rescue dying birds, fish and other wildlife trapped in the sticky oil.

Hundreds of local fishermen, who say their livelihoods have been ruined by the spill, have united to file a private claim against Petrobras expected to be worth millions of reais.

The company has imported thousands of buoys from Britain, Canada and the United States to build a floating wall to contain the leak within the bay's rear portion, well away from the city's most famous beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana.

Source: Canoe Money, Canada

htt p://

-- Lee Maloney (, February 21, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ