Greenpeace says Total underestimated drilling risks near Amazon reef

FILE PHOTO: The logo of French oil giant Total is seen in front of the oil refinery of Donges, near Nantes, France, December 20, 2013. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - French oil and gas company Total and other energy majors should abandon plans to drill close to the mouth of Brazil’s Amazon because of potential risks to the ecosystem of the area, environmental campaigner Greenpeace said on Wednesday.

Greenpeace said an analysis of Total’s environmental assessment of its planned drilling, underestimated the risks of drilling and other support activities in the area.

Total and partners, Britain’s BP and Brazilian state oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, plan to drill in the area, which may contain as many as 14 billion barrels of petroleum.

Total has said that it was complying with all requirements by Brazilian authorities and was taking every precaution to ensure that drilling would be safe.

“Drilling of exploration wells, programmed in 2017, is subject to approval by the Brazilian authorities and will only start when we have the final authorization. We continue to closely work with Ibama in the frame of the approval process which is still underway,” a Total spokeswoman said.

Total and its partners paid 622 million reais (146.7 million pounds) four years ago for five exploration blocks, but they are still waiting for the go-ahead from Brazil’s environmental regulator, Ibama, to start drilling.

Greepeace said Ibama should not grant the environmental licenses.

Total plans to start drilling operations in 2017 and BP in 2018. The priority is to prevent drilling of the very first well, Greenpeace said, adding that potential risks and impacts related to drilling are too dangerous for the environment and the local populations of the region.

“Drilling activities in such an ecosystem are extremely risky and an oil spill would be catastrophic,” Greenpeace said in the report. “In view of the potential impacts, the measures proposed by Total in the event of an emergency are far from sufficient,” it added.

Reporting by Bate Felix; editing by Susan Thomas