* Court requires outgoing executive to pay $245,000 bond
* Chevron Brazil chief leaving for new job in Houston
* Incoming chief Portuguese-speaker with Chevron Angola
By Jeb Blount
RIO DE JANEIRO, Sept 5 The head of Chevron
Corp's Brazilian unit, George Buck, can leave the
country when his job ends later this month as long as he pays a
500,000 real ($245,000) bond to assure his participation in
court cases related to a November oil spill, a Brazilian court
Buck will be replaced by Kelly Hartshorn, head of Chevron's
deepwater operations in Angola, a person with knowledge of the
appointment said. The source declined to be named because he has
not been authorized to speak about personnel matters.
According to Rio de Janeiro federal court documents, Buck
will take up a job in Houston in Chevron's drilling and
Buck and 16 other executives and employees of Chevron and
drill-rig owner Transocean Ltd have been charged with
crimes related to an offshore oil spill northeast of Rio de
"I believe we have built a safety culture and implemented
sustainable processes," Buck wrote in a farewell letter to
Chevron employees obtained by Reuters. "I'm confident that with
time Chevron Brasil will recover and maintain a solid business
The criminal charges against the executives, employees and
companies carry potential jail terms of up to 31 years. Chevron
and Transocean also face a civil lawsuits seeking about $20
billion in damages and face an injunction that could bar both
from operating in Brazil in less than a month.
The civil lawsuit seeks the largest ever Brazilian
environmental damages settlement.
The civil and criminal charges stem from a 3,000 to 4,000
barrel oil leak in the Frade field, about 120 km (75 miles) off
the coast of Rio de Janeiro state.
Chevron owns 52 percent of Frade and is the operator.
Brazil's state-led Petrobras owns 30 percent and
Japao Frade, a group owned by Japan's Sojitz Corp and
Inpex Corp, own 18 percent. Petrobras, and Japao Frade
have not been charged or named in the civil suits.
The criminal charges include: failure to realize protocols
to contain the leak; failure to take steps to kill the well and
stop the drilling process; breach of licenses, legal norms and
regulation, including altering documents; and failure to meet
legal and contractual duties.
The spill was less than 1/1000th of the size of BP's
2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. No oil
ever reached shore. According to a report on the spill by
Brazil's petroleum regulator, the ANP, there was no discernable
The ANP said the companies failed to follow procedures but
did not accuse Chevron or Transocean of negligence.
Chevron and Transocean both consider the civil and criminal
charges to be without merit and are fighting them in court.
Chevron shut down all operations at the Frade field in March
after more oil was found in the area and Chevron could not
determine the source.
Buck, who had planned to stay in Brazil for three years has
now been in the country for three and a half years, a period
that saw the Frade field, which Chevron has been looking at for
more than two decades, finally produce oil. It reached more than
70,000 barrels a day before the November spill.
In the wake of the spill, Buck and Chevron were accused of
poor communication, a situation amplified by Buck's poor command
of Portuguese, Brazil's official language.
Hartshorn has been working in Angola, also a former colony
of Portugal, and she speaks Portuguese.