Brazil: Ecological catastrophe feared?

The P-36, the world’s largest rig, finally succumbed to the damage wrought by three large explosions last Thursday which seriously damaged the underwater support structure and killed ten oil workers. The rig belonged to Brazilian state oil company Petrobras, and had been part of Brazil’s pledge to be self-sufficient in oil by 2005. The President of Petrobras, Henri Reichstul, said that an oil slick was unavoidable, given the high pressure of the waters, 125 km. off Rio de Janeiro on Brazil’s east coast and 1.6 km. deep. The rig took down with it 1.5 million litres of fuel oil but there may be more. “I still do not know if the other 300,000 litres will appear. This is what was in the tubes linking the drills to the surface”. Petrobras states that there will be an oil slick but that this should, in principle, dissipate in the ocean and should not reach the coastline. The company has erected 33 km. of floating containment barriers around the slick now forming on the surface. It is hoped to suck most of this up in suction tubes. The effect on wildlife, however, is difficult to predict.


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