April 11, 2012 / 8:00 PM / 7 years ago

UPDATE 2-Judge blocks bid to stop Chevron Brazil operations

* Court rejects injunction against Chevron and Transocean

* Judge says injunction would harm regulator’s authority

* Injunction was requested by Brazil federal prosecutor

* Petrobras says nearby leak not from its producing fields

By Jeb Blount and Leila Coimbra

RIO DE JANEIRO, April 11 (Reuters) - A Brazilian judge denied an injunction seeking to bar U.S. oil company Chevron Corp and drill-rig operator Transocean Ltd from operating in Brazil after two offshore oil leaks, a federal court in Rio de Janeiro said on Wednesday.

The judge, Guilherme Diefenthaeler of the appellate division of the Second Region Federal Court, ruled that granting the injunction would interfere with the legal authority of the ANP, Brazil’s oil regulator, to manage the oil industry and would be an improper judicial intrusion into public administration.

The ruling was made on an appeal by a federal prosecutor who had his initial request to issue the injunction banning Chevron and Transocean denied by a lower court.

The prosecutor had also sought to prevent Chevron or Transocean from transporting oil in Brazil and to ban the movement of their equipment out of the country. The injunction would have imposed penalties of 500 million reais ($273 million) a day for failure to comply.

The same federal prosecutor, Eduardo Santos de Oliveira, has launched two 20 billion real ($11 billion) civil lawsuits against the companies and has filed criminal charges against 17 Chevron and Transocean employees that carry jail terms of up to 31 years.

The suits are related to an offshore spill of approximately 3,000 barrels in the Chevron-operated Frade field northeast of Rio de Janeiro in November.

A leak in March of about two barrels led to a complete shutdown of operations in the area so that Chevron, its drilling contractor Transocean, and Chevron’s partners in Frade could study geological conditions that may have contributed to the November spill.

Chevron and Transocean deny any wrongdoing in the leaks.

“We welcome the judge’s ruling to deny the injunction sought by the prosecutor,” Transocean said in a statement. “We will continue to vigorously defend our company, our people, our reputation and our quality of services.”

Chevron said it is “pleased” with the decision and that the leaks caused “no discernable environmental impact to marine life or human health.” The company said it “acted diligently and appropriately and in accordance with best practices in the oil industry.”

Chevron owns 52 percent of the Frade field, Brazil’s state-led oil company Petrobras owns 30 percent and a Japanese group led by Inpex Corp and Sojitz Corp owns 18 percent.

On Monday, Chevron said it found a leak in the Roncador field owned and operated by Petrobras. The field, Brazil’s No. 2 producing field, is adjacent to Frade and has output of 284,000 barrels of oil and natural gas equivalent a day.

That’s more than four times the 62,500 barrels a day Frade was producing before it was shut down and more than 10 percent of Brazil’s total output of 2.63 million barrels a day.

Petrobras said on Wednesday that tiny droplets of oil seeping from the sea floor in the Roncador area, adjacent to Frade, were not from any of its producing reservoirs or from any known oil field in the Campos Basin, the source of about 80 percent of Brazil’s petroleum output.

When tested, the liquid showed characteristics of drilling fluid, a paraffin-based petroleum product used to drill oil wells, Petrobras said.

Chevron fell 0.49 percent to $100.95, its lowest in nearly four months, in New York trading. Transocean fell 0.5 percent to 45.73 Swiss francs.

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