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Chevron, Transocean execs banned from leaving Brazil

The chief executives of Chevron Corp.'s and Transocean Ltd.'s Brazilian units are among 17 executives at the two companies banned from leaving the country pending an investigation into an offshore oil spill.

Chevron’s George Buck and Transocean’s Michael Legrand were on the list of managers that federal prosecutors asked Judge Vlamir Costa Magalhaes to ban from leaving Brazil, according to a copy of the request sent Monday by the prosecutor’s office. The judge issued the ban Friday.

The Nov. 7 leak of 3,000 barrels of oil at Chevron’s $3.6-billion Frade field off the coast of Rio de Janeiro occurred at a time when Brazil is increasing scrutiny of deepwater drilling after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, which was about 1,630 times bigger. Transocean owned the rig involved in last November’s spill.

State and federal lawmakers’ reaction was “out of proportion,” said Cleveland Jones, an oil specialist and geology professor at Rio de Janeiro State University. He said the spill is “far from the coast and it’s a small volume.”

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Seepages are common in regions such as the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea, Jones said.

Chevron will defend itself and its employees, spokesman Kurt Glaubitz said.

The executives “appear to have foreign citizenship or financial conditions and clear motives to want to leave the country,” Costa Magalhaes said in the order. Their departure “at this time and under the current circumstances, would pose great risk to the investigation and the eventual application of the criminal law,” the judge said.

Last week Chevron shut what oil production remains at the field after detecting a new leak, Glaubitz said. He said the shutdown was temporary and the company would conduct a geologic study of the area.


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