BHP Billiton abandons oil drilling plans near Amazon reef

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But Total and BP could potentially still drill in the region

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 15: The BHP Billiton logo is seen at the BHP Billiton Centre February 15, 2006 in Melbourne, Australia. BHP today posted the biggest interim profit in Australian corporate history. The world’s biggest mining company announced a half-year after tax profit of $5.9 billion AUD ($4.37 billion USD) a rise of almost 48 per cent from last year. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

BHP Billiton is abandoning plans to drill for oil near a huge coral reef in the mouth of the Amazon river.

A company spokesperson told Unearthed it notified Brazil’s National Agency of Petroleum (ANP) on February 16th of its decision to exit the Foz do Amazonas region and “return concession areas FZA-M-324 and FZA-M-257”.

The spokesperson described the move as a “simple business/portfolio management decision”.

BHP acquired both blocks in 2013, paying a little over $15m in total – $5.01m for FZA-M-324 and $10.5m for FZA-M-257, according to data from energy analyst Wood Mackenzie.

The Anglo-Australian multinational, had hoped to drill in the region, which geologists believe could hold as much as 14 billion barrels of oil.

International oil firms

BP, French oil firm Total and Brazilian state oil company Petrobras all still hold licenses in the Foz do Amazonas region.  But plans to explore in the area have been complicated by the existence of a unique coral reef.

Just before Christmas, Ibama, Brazil’s federal environmental agency, rejected an environmental study from BP, further delaying the company’s plans to drill in the region.

The agency was critical of the company’s study for a lack of detail on oil spill modelling and the impact drilling could have on local wildlife.

Images of the Amazon Reef taken from a submarine launched from the MY Esperanza. The Greenpeace ship is currently in the region of the Amazon river mouth, Amapá State, for the “Defend the Amazon Reef” campaign.
A team of experts are onboard, including the scientist from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Fabiano Thompson and Kenneth Jozeph Lowick, from Greenpeace Belgium. Thompson led the group of scientists who discovered the coral reef at the mouth of the Amazon River.
Imagens captadas do submarino dos Corais da Amazônia. Neste sábado, 28 de janeiro, o submarino foi lançado do navio Esperanza com o cientista da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro Fabiano Thompson e Kenneth Jozeph Lowick, do Greenpeace da Bégica. Thompson liderou o grupo de cientistas que descobriu o recife de corais na foz do rio Amazonas. O lançamento do submarino envolveu grande parte da tripulação do navio.
Esperanza, um dos três navios do Greenpeace, está na região da foz do rio Amazonas, no Amapá, para a campanha “Defenda os Corais da Amazônia. O objetivo é observar debaixo d’água, pela primeira vez, os recifes de corais.

Prior to that, BP’s plans to use the chemical Corexit in the event of an oil spill in the region sparked controversy.

Corexit was used extensively during the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 and three years later, scientists found the chemical had a negative impact on coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico.

An environmental impact assessment submitted by Total last summer found that a spill in the area around the reef could pose a significant risk to nearby countries.

There are also safety concerns about drilling in the region. A technical paper prepared for the Rio Oil & Gas Expo and Conference in 2014 cast doubt on the ability of oil companies to use existing Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) in the mouth of the Amazon.

ROVs were used extensively to clean up the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, but the report by engineer David Frantanton – which you can read a summary of here – suggests that is it uncertain whether ROVs and other vehicles could operate in the intense currents found in the mouth of the Amazon.

Total and BP, along with other companies, could still drill in the region later this year, if their plans are approved by the Brazilian regulator.

Unearthed has asked BP and Total to comment on this story and update us on their plans in the Foz do Amazonas. We will update if and when both companies get back to us.

via : https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2018/03/14/bhp-billiton-abandon-oil-licenses-near-amazon-reef/

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