Petrobras theft may be gas field data--source

MACAE, Brazil Wed Feb 20, 2008 8:27pm EST

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MACAE, Brazil Feb 20 (Reuters) - Equipment stolen from Brazil's state-run energy giant Petrobras (PETR4.SA) (PBR.N) could contain data of a major natural gas deposit struck by the company in January, a police source said on Wednesday.

Petrobras confirmed last week that four laptops and two RAM memory chips were stolen in late January from a transport container owned by the U.S. oil-field service company Halliburton (HAL.N), a Petrobras business partner.

The equipment came from a drilling ship that had drilled the Jupiter field of natural gas and condensates in the offshore Santos basin, the source said.

Drilling ship NS-21, known as Ocean Clipper, is one of two in Brazil capable of drilling the subsalt cluster deep under the ocean floor, where both Jupiter and giant Tupi oil field are located, said another source close to the investigation.

Jupiter field is expected to help Brazil achieve self-sufficiency in natural gas within a few years and give it a better negotiating position in talks with Bolivia on gas prices.

The area Jupiter field covers is similar to Tupi, which has light oil and gas recoverable reserves estimated by Petrobras at between 5 billion and 8 billion barrels.

Petrobras has not specified the nature of the stolen data.

Halliburton has declined to comment on the case.

Federal police questioned about 20 people who had been in contact with the stolen equipment. In Macae, a main center for Brazil's oil industry, three Petrobras security workers, three Halliburton employees and one worker from transport company Transmagno were interviewed on Wednesday.

Police said they were treating the theft as a case of industrial espionage.

This was not the first case of data robbery from Petrobras. The company reported similar cases to police about a year ago but said they did not involve important information. (Reporting by Mauricio Savarese, Writing by Inae Riveras; Editing by Gary Hill)

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