Brazilian Oil Giant's Platform Tilts, 77 Workers Moved To Safety

Brazilian Oil Giant's Platform Tilts, 77 Workers Moved To Safety

Specialists remain on board to correct ballast issue
by John Pendleton  |   Monday, March 03, 2014
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In the early hours of February 28th, a platform in the Marlim field began to lean. The Marlim field is a key component in the giant Campos Basin (which covers almost 115,000 square kilometers), about 60 miles offshore from Rio de Janeiro.

The crew responded immediately, following safety protocols that were pre-planned for just such an event. While some crew members took corrective action to address the technical issues, about 77 workers were removed from the platform as a safety precaution. Well control was maintained at all times and the vessel's tilt never exceeded about 3 degrees. 

The platform is known as SS-53 and is owned by Noble Corporation, a well-respected multinational firm working for Petrobas, a semi-public Brazilian multinational energy company. Petrobras is the fourth-largest company in the world (measured by market capitalization), but it is also the world’s most indebted oil company.

Petrobras has been selling imported gasoline and diesel at prices that are well below cost as part of an effort to aid the government in its fight against inflation. That has caused the company's profit to drop at a time when the company is planning $220.6 billion of investments in hopes of developing new oil discoveries. Petrobas' refining division has lost roughly $37 billion since 2011, when the government started requiring Petrobras subsidize imported fuel.

On Wednesday, two days before the accident, Petrobas shares closed at an eight-year low Wednesday when management was unable to convince investors that a turnaround in production and revenues would occur soon.

The company’s preferred shares sold at 26.30 reails each, leaving many investors having now lost half their investment.

Onboard SS-35, a skilled team of 36 specialists remained in place stabilizing the platform. The rig, also known as the Noble Paul Wolff, a dynamically-positioned semisubmersible rig had experienced a ballast control incident and in response, the crew took the appropriate corrective action, including safely securing the well. Measures have been taken to resolve the problem and allow the remainder of the crew to return to the platform. No injuries were reported and there are no indications that any fluids were lost.

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