Petrobras is a Brazilian oil company. Most of the operations in recovering petroleum occur offshore in deep and ultra-deep waters. This makes working for Petrobras risky, and some workers have been injured in accidents.
Petrobras is a Brazilian petroleum company, semi-public, and one of the largest companies in the world. Petrobras America Inc. is the U.S. division of this huge company that, until 1997, was the only oil company in Brazil.
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When the monopoly ended, the company remained one of the largest in the world and the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere. Petrobras has its headquarters in Rio de Janeiro.
Although headquartered in South America, Petrobras has a global reach with operations worldwide, from Japan and China to West Africa and the U.S. The company has more than 100 offshore production platforms, thousands of miles of pipelines, and 15 refineries.
Petrobras began in 1953 when the Brazilian government gave it a legal monopoly over oil recovery and production.
- Output at the time the company formed was pretty small for Brazil at just 2,700 barrels a day. That has changed drastically over the decades, and Petrobras now produces nearly three million barrels of oil daily.
- In the 1970s, Petrobras nearly went under because of the oil crisis but bounced back with the 1974 discovery of a significant oil field at the Campos Basin.
- In 1994 the company installed what was the world’s largest oil platform. It sank in 2001 after a massive explosion.
- In 1997 Petrobras lost its monopoly as the government allowed competitors to enter Brazil’s oil fields.
- Petrobras America Inc. is the U.S. division of the company, and it operates nearly autonomously from the parent company.
- It was founded in 1987 and is headquartered in Houston, Texas.
- Petrobras America devotes much of its resources and time to cultivating oil fields and wells in the Gulf of Mexico. This location has been home to many accidents, injuries, worker deaths, and oil spills.
Petrobras Operations and Projects
Petroleum exploration and recovery is one of Petrobras’s primary operations. Brazil is rich in gas and oil, so the company’s production comes from its home country. However, Petrobras also operates in:
- The U.S. in the Gulf of Mexico
In addition to exploration and production, Petrobras is involved in refining natural gas and petroleum, transporting crude resources and refined products, and distributing them through wholesalers.
One company division is responsible for trading natural gas and generating electricity and fertilizer. Biofuels are also crucial to Petrobras, and the company has one division devoted to producing biodiesel, ethanol, and sugar.
Petrobras Oil Spills
Maritime oil and gas companies like Petrobras face many challenges, including leaks and spills. Because of the huge output of their wells and refineries, spills can quickly become major environmental disasters that harm ecosystems, people, animals, and local economies.
From the 1970s through the present, Petrobras has caused several spills, mainly in Brazil. These include a six-million-liter spill in Gauanabara Bay in 1975 and another spill into the same bay in 2000.
This later 2000 spill was considered one of the worst in the region ever. Several hundred thousand gallons of crude oil leaked from a broken pipeline and polluted beaches and delicate ecosystems.
The government of Brazil immediately blamed Petrobras and called its pipelines old and poorly maintained. It was a huge ecological disaster and hurt tourism as the oil covered some of the country’s most famous beaches.
Worker Accidents, Injuries, and Deaths
Oil spills are terrible and all too common, yet the worst incidents maritime oil and gas companies like Petrobras face are those that injure and kill workers. Platforms and the ships and equipment that serve them are complicated, extensive, and dangerous.
Workers have to be highly skilled to operate them, and even then, nearly anything can go wrong and cause a disastrous accident that injures and even kills people.
Oil Platform Explosion
One of Petrobras’s worst accidents was the eventual sinking of P-36, the world’s largest oil platform. The platform produced 80,000 barrels of oil daily before it sank on March 20, 2001.
The incident started on March 15 when two explosions rocked the platform. An overpressure event triggered the first explosion, while the leaking and ignition of hydrocarbon vapors caused the second.
A third explosion finished off the platform, which took a few days to sink. The initial blasts killed ten of the more than 100 workers on the platform.
Not all incidents are as tragic as the P-36 explosions, but those that are minor and cause only injuries are much more common.
One example occurred aboard a boat provided to transport a Petrobras America worker to a facility in Peru. The boat struck something and flipped in the water, trapping the worker underneath. He suffered from a concussion, broken teeth, and other injuries.
Maritime Workers’ Rights
Petrobras is negligent in many of its incidents and has also been found to have more incidents than the average for the industry.
From injuries to fatalities, companies that employ maritime workers have specific responsibilities for their safety and well-being.
Although the industry is always dangerous, companies must provide the most reasonable safety measures possible to prevent accidents, injuries, and deaths.
If you are a maritime worker in the dangerous offshore oil and gas industry, you put yourself at risk every day. You could be injured due to negligence, even if it seems like an accident.
If you are, speak with a maritime lawyer. Take no steps to agree to compensation until an experienced maritime legal professional has reviewed your case.