(Adds details on riser problems, contract addendum talks)
By Rodrigo Viga Gaier
RIO DE JANEIRO, June 23 (Reuters) - Petróleo Brasileiro SA is in talks to amend terms of a contract on pipeline connections supplied by TechnipFMC Plc to ensure smooth exploration and production activities at the Brazilian oil company's most promising offshore development, a spokeswoman said on Friday.
State-controlled Petrobras is now seeking a double coating on "risers," or connections for flexible underwater pipelines, after it closed a $300 million contract with TechnipFMC a almost year ago to supply the equipment, she said.
The cost for the change, which would be made through a contract addendum, is still being negotiated by Petrobras and TechnipFMC's Brazilian unit, she added. The talks follow two failures, which occurred in gas injection pipeline connections after the contract was signed.
The problems, which occurred in Lula and Sapinhoá - Petrobras' top two producing fields in the so-called pre-salt region - led technicians to begin investigating the flaws and monitoring other pipeline connections in pre-salt areas.
Petrobras' production and technology development director, Roberto Moro, played down the probability of problems caused by the incidents.
The risk of an environmental accident "is minimal and close to zero, because we are talking about gas risers rather than oil. There is also no risk to production," Moro said in an interview.
The situation underscores the challenges facing Petrobras as it seeks to ramp up output of pre-salt oil and gas, which has heavy carbon dioxide content, in deep waters. Pre-salt refers to deep-sea oil resources off Brazil's coast, trapped beneath a layer of mineral salts under the seabed.
TechnipFMC declined to comment. Another Petrobras spokeswoman said the company had not released a statement about the riser issues when they occurred but informed authorities and reporters seeking information on the matter.
Moro said the incidents were "a specific issue and no problem was detected at another riser, but we continue to monitor it."
There is no deadline for Petrobras and TechnipFMC to close negotiations over the contract addendum, the spokeswoman said, adding that TechnipFMC has hired specialists in carbon dioxide-related corrosion to investigate the failures.
In both incidents, pieces of the deficient risers fell to the ocean floor and allowed sea water to leak into the pipes. The risers had been connected to the Cidade de Angra dos Reis platform system in the Lula field and the Cidade de São Paulo platform system in the Sapinhoá field
According to Moro, in both cases, the problem was caused by carbon dioxide-related corrosion, which is more common in risers that carry gas instead of oil.
The issues in gas injection pipelines linking the wells to the two platforms drove Petrobras to decide to reinforce the equipment that will be used in future pre-salt output. Pre-salt already accounts for almost half of oil and gas extraction in Brazil.
However, risers with double protection at the joints, to prevent further infiltration of seawater, will initially be used only in new operations, the first Petrobras spokeswoman said. (Writing by Alexandra Alper; Additional reporting by Roberto Samora in São Paulo and Marta Nogueira in Rio de Janeiro; editing by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Tom Brown)