RIO DE JANEIRO -(Dow Jones)- Brazil's National Petroleum Agency, or ANP, shut down an oil platform operated by state-run energy giant Petroleo Brasileiro (PBR, PETR4.BR), or Petrobras, Thursday, underscoring safety concerns at the company's offshore facilities after a series of accidents and complaints by union officials.
The ANP said that it ordered Petrobras to halt operations at the P-33 rig in the Campos Basin's Marlim Field as a safety precaution. The platform was one of several that union officials had complained were unsafe for workers, with local newspapers publishing photos of rusted equipment earlier this week. The shutdown also followed a fire at the nearby P-35 platform Wednesday.
Petrobras said in a statement late Thursday it had not yet been notified of a shutdown by ANP. As soon as it receives notification it will adopt recommendations made by the agency, it said. The company said in an emailed statement earlier Thursday that it had planned to shut the P-33 platform down for maintenance in October. The platform produces 20,000 barrels per day of oil.
Global awareness of the dangers of oil production in deepwater areas was heightened earlier this year when a drilling rig being operated at BP PLC's (BP, BP.LN) Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico suffered a blowout, spewing crude into the gulf for months. Questions about offshore safety at Petrobras also come at a tenuous time for the federal oil company, which has seen its shares plummet 25% so far in 2010 because of uncertainties surrounding a government capitalization plan and share offer.
ANP said it ordered the P-33's shutdown "to ensure operational and workers' safety." Brazil's main oil and natural gas industry regulator sent staff to the rig Wednesday and Thursday after a Rio de Janeiro oil workers' union reported mechanical problems at the platform.
ANP said it found a series of irregularities, which were corrected by Petrobras, and that the rig was closed as a precaution. Regulators are stepping up checking procedures at platforms in the Campos Basin and will revisit all rigs in the area this year, the ANP said. The agency said it is carrying out 80 operational safety checks in the area.
Wednesday's fire broke out at the P-35 platform after water and hydrocarbon vapors condensed on equipment in the platform's gas-treatment unit, press officials with Brazil's 1st Naval District told Dow Jones. The platform is also installed at the Marlim field in the Campos Basin, where more than 85% of the country's crude is produced.
Platform workers responded to control the fire, and there were no deaths or environmental issues related to the accident, a spokeswoman said. In addition, Brazil's Navy said that port officials and inspectors would visit the platform Thursday to investigate the accident. Petrobras said in a statement that the accident didn't interrupt operations at the platform or cause any personal or material damage.