UPDATE 2-Brazil environment agency frustrates Petrobras plan to drill at the mouth of the Amazon

·2 min read

(Adds Petrobras comments on filing response to agency demands)

By Lisandra Paraguassu and Marta Nogueira

BRASILIA, March 20 (Reuters) - Brazil's environmental regulator Ibama has asked Petrobras for additional information on its plan to drill at the mouth of the Amazon river before authorizing the company to test its emergency oil spill response, the agency's president told Reuters.

The request frustrated Petrobras' hopes to start the drilling test as early as this week, a source close to the company said on Monday.

Ibama has not defined a test date because Petrobras did not deliver all of the documents required, but it will be scheduled as soon as the company provides the information, the agency's president Rodrigo Agostinho said.

Petrobas views the mouth of the Amazon as the newest and most important frontier for oil exploration in Brazil and the company planned the test to assess its response in the event of a major spill.

The company has been working for years to open up a new exploration frontier in a region close to Guyana, where Exxon Mobil has made important discoveries and many wells were drilled.

Later on Monday, Petrobras said it had just filed details and responses to Ibama's demands.

"After analysis and agreement by the environmental agency, the date for carrying out the pre-operational assessment may be defined together with Ibama," the company said in a statement.

The area was auctioned in 2013 and Petrobras has planned to explore there for years after BP and TotalEnergies gave up on their assets, even after investing in studies, because of difficulties in obtaining drilling licenses.

The Foz region has little-known geology, and Petrobras has already spent 290 million reais ($55 million) preparing for the spillage test.

But Ibama views the area, known in Portuguese as the Foz do Amazonas, as environmentally sensitive and a decision on the drilling plan cannot be based on business interests and deadlines, Agostinho said in an interview.

"This is obviously a very sensitive region and Ibama treats it as a great priority, so there is no decision on a license or when it can come," Agostinho said.

He said the previous government "did not carry out a technical assessment of the entire region, which should have been made, and this makes it difficult to assess the situation."

Environment Minister Marina Silva has said exploration at the Foz do Amazonas is "highly impactful" and must have a "strategic" environmental assessment. Agostinho denied that she had stopped the drilling plan.

($1 = 5.2408 reais) (Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu and Marta Nogueira; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Josie Kao and Jamie Freed)