* Judge said losses to public outweigh merits of injunction
* Petrobras contracts eight rigs from Transocean
* Rigs are key to Petrobras oil expansion plans
SAO PAULO, Sept 30 A Brazilian court overturned
an injunction to suspend off-shore drilling by rig operator
Transocean, accepting that it could have caused billions
of dollars in lost revenue for the government and the state-led
oil firm Petrobras.
Judge Felix Fischer, president of Brazil's second-highest
court -- the STJ, said in a court document seen by Reuters that
he would accept part of an appeal filed by the oil regulator ANP
on behalf of Petrobras earlier this month to lift the
If it had remained, the injunction would have shutdown
Transocean's 10 drilling rigs operating in Brazilian waters,
eight of them under contract by Petrobras, by Oct. 27. The court
said there are 72 rigs operating in Brazil.
Fischer accepted ANP's argument that losses in revenue to
Petrobras and the government in royalties would amount to more
than 6.7 billion reais ($3.8 billion) over two years if
Transocean's rigs were suspended from operating.
The court document seen by Reuters is likely to be published
early this week but was signed by Fischer on Friday.
Brazil is in the early stages of developing its massive
subsalt off-shore oil band, which could hold upward of 100
billion barrels of oil. The oil is technically tricky to lift.
A shortage of drilling rigs able to operate in waters more
than 2,000 meters deep has restrained Petrobras' push to bring
on this new subsalt oil despite a $237 billion five-year
The Transocean ban is related to a lawsuit seeking nearly
$20 billion from the rig operator and Chevron Corp. for
a November oil spill in the Frade offshore field northeast of
Rio de Janeiro.
Chevron had contracted Transocean's Sedco 706 rig to drill
in Frade, where the ban on Transocean remains in force. Chevron
and Transocean say they were not negligent in the spill and are
fighting the lawsuits and related criminal charges.
Brazil's oil regulator ANP said in a July report that
Transocean had no responsibility for the spill.
Petrobras, Transocean and Chevron could not immediately be
reached late on Sunday to comment on the court's decision to
lift the injunction.