* Companies accept "change-of-conduct accord" - prosecutor
* Changes to safety, operating procedures follow 2011 spill
(Adds details, background)
By Jeb Blount
RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 30 Chevron Corp and
Transocean Ltd have agreed to change offshore safety and
operating procedures as part of a lawsuit seeking nearly $20
billion in damages from the companies for a November 2011 oil
spill, Brazilian public prosecutors told Reuters on Friday.
The agreement, known as a "change-of-conduct accord," was
drafted at the companies' request with federal prosecutors who
are handling two civil lawsuits against Chevron and Transocean,
the prosecutors' press office in Rio de Janeiro said.
The lawsuits are the largest-ever environmental prosecutions
in Brazil. The press office declined to give details of the
accord but said they would be presented at a public hearing on
Dec. 14 in Rio de Janeiro by federal prosecutor Gisele Porto.
Chevron officials were not immediately available for
comment. Transocean's press officer in Houston declined to
comment. Both companies say they committed no crime and acted
correctly during and after the spill.
After the Dec.14 hearing and possible changes, the agreement
is expected to be presented to the federal judge in Rio who is
hearing the lawsuits.
Porto is lead prosecutor on the civil lawsuits against
Chevron, the No. 2 U.S. oil company, and Transocean, the world's
largest offshore oil drilling rig operator, for the 3,600-barrel
spill in the Frade field northeast of Rio de Janeiro.
No one was hurt in the Frade accident. No oil reached shore
and there was no discernable environmental damage, according to
Brazil's petroleum regulator, the ANP.
The Frade field was producing 62,000 barrels of oil per day
when it was shut in March to examine unexplained leaks in the
area near the site of the November 2011 spill. Frade is operated
by Chevron, which also owns 52 percent of the field.
Brazil's state-led Petrobras owns 30 percent, and Frade
Japão, owned by Japanese trading houses Sojitz Corp and
Inpex Corp, has an 18 percent stake. Neither Petrobras
nor Frade Japão is the subject of spill-related prosecutions.
Chevron, Transocean and 17 of their employees and executives
also face criminal charges that can carry financial penalties
and jail terms of up to 31 years.
The spill was not as severe as other recent offshore
accidents. More than 5 million barrels of oil was spilled in the
2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in BP Plc's Macondo field
in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven people died in the accident and
beaches and fishing grounds were polluted.
On Nov. 15, BP agreed to pay a record $4.5 billion in
penalties and plead guilty to criminal misconduct for the
While criticizing some of Chevron's actions and levying 35.1
million reais ($16.6 billion) in fines on the company, the ANP
said in a July report that there was no negligence in the 2011
spill. The ANP said Transocean had no responsibility for the
Both companies have said they will vigorously challenge the
civil and criminal cases against them.
(Reporting by Jeb Blount; editing by John Wallace)