The lack of definition of environmental rules that must be adopted to retire thousands of kilometers of pipelines and machinery launched in the ocean to explore oil, has blocked the dismantling of platforms in the country. Earlier this year, a Petrobras platform that should have been dismantled since last year ended up leaking off the coast of Rio. At least 4,900 liters of crude oil were spilled into the sea, creating an oil spill 38 kilometers long by 20 meters wide.
Recognized throughout the world for the technologies it holds in deepwater oil exploration, Brazil does not have until today a basic set of environmental norms that objectively point out the best option to remove these platforms from the ocean. Doubts are trivial: it is unclear whether, by deactivating an oil platform, the company responsible must collect all pipelines and machinery that are in the bottom of the sea, deactivating only the platform, or if it would be better to collect part of the structure, leaving another part on the ocean floor.
The clear definition of these rules could have prevented the Rio de Janeiro floating platform incident in the first week of January. More than six months ago, on June 13, Petrobras delivered to Ibama a plan to deactivate its platform. For 11 years, the platform produced thousands of barrels of oil from the seabed, in the Campos Basin. It was time to retire the great structure, an initiative unheard of for the state company if considered the size of the platform.
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The deactivation plan, however, was not endorsed by IBAMA, as it was considered an “incomplete document”. The following months were spent on meetings between petroleum technicians and the environmental agency, to try to define the best plan. Only on December 7, almost six months later, Petrobrás presented a second version of the plan, which is under analysis.
One technical study states that because these platforms spend years in the same place, a complex ecosystem adapts to the structure in the water and, therefore, their complete removal would not be advisable. Others, however, argue that the company must remove everything it has put in place and assume full recovery as it has caused the environmental impact. In countries like England, for example, the law requires 100% of these structures to be withdrawn.
For the campaign director of Greenpeace Brazil, Nilo D’Ávila, companies and government were only concerned with establishing environmental rules for the oil prospecting and withdrawal phases.
Data from the National Agency for Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP) show that Petrobras currently has 134 oil platforms on the Brazilian coast. Of these, 35 are of the floating type, such as the City of Rio de Janeiro. Another 99 platforms are of other models, including fixed structures and other submersibles. All of them, at some point, will have to be deactivated.