March 17, 2012 / 8:13 PM / 7 years ago

Brazil navy spots oil stain in Chevron field

Gasoline is priced over $5 per gallon at a Chevron gasoline station in downtown Los Angeles, California March 13, 2012. Sales at gasoline stations surged 3.3 percent to a record $46.9 billion in January - a figure that reflects higher gasoline costs. The percentage gain was the largest since March last year and followed a 1.9 percent increase in January 2012. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

(Reuters) - The Brazilian navy said it spotted a thin stain of oil extending for about half a mile in the same offshore field operated by U.S. oil company Chevron (CVX.N) where a high-profile spill occurred last November.

Navy staff found the stain on Friday after flying over the area off Brazil’s Atlantic coast, according to a statement late on Friday. The navy, oil industry regulator ANP and environmental protection agency Ibama will monitor and coordinate actions with Chevron to control the stain, the statement added.

Chevron filed to halt production operations temporarily in Brazil on Thursday after it detected a “small new seep” of oil in the Frade field.

The company said it was taking the step as a precautionary measure to study its “reservoir management plans” in Brazil, where it has spent over $2 billion developing the largest foreign-run oil field. If approved by Brazilian regulators, the suspension will shut down a field with the capacity to produce 80,000 barrels a day, more than 3 percent of Brazil’s oil output.

A Rio de Janeiro-based public relations executive for Chevron said the company did not have an immediate comment on the navy statement.

Chevron’s previous spill in November leaked as many as 3,000 barrels from sea-floor cracks. It resulted in an $11 billion civil lawsuit, the largest environmental damages case in Brazil’s history, although the total amount of oil was less than 0.1 percent of the BP (BP.L) spill in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico.

Chevron said on Thursday there was no evidence yet the two spills were related.

ANP, Brazil’s navy and Ibama officials will meet early next week to assess the situation, the statement added.

Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal in Sao Paulo and Maria Pia Palermo in Rio de Janeiro; Editing by Peter Cooney

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