SAO PAULO (Reuters) - A Brazilian prosecutor plans to allege this week that U.S. oil company Chevron has no way to stop a leak in an offshore oil field caused by a November drilling accident.
Prosecutor Eduardo Santos de Oliveira told Reuters in a telephone interview on Monday that the accident cracked the seal of the Frade field reservoir, northeast of Rio de Janeiro.
"There's no way to stop this leak until the reservoir is depleted," said Santos de Oliveira, adding that the November accident had broken the reservoir's seal. "The seal was cracked and oil will leak until it's gone."
The allegations stem from police and prosecutors' investigations being used to assemble criminal indictments against Chevron, drill-rig operator Transocean and 17 of their executives and employees.
Santos de Oliveira also said that the company was "improperly" drilling for sub-salt oil reservoirs.
A Chevron representative said the company's offshore drilling operation never aimed for sub-salt oil targets and the company stopped the November leak in four days.
"At the location of the incident, Chevron was drilling an appraisal well above the pre-salt layer and never aimed to reach the pre-salt," Chevron representative Kurt Glaubitz told Reuters in an email.
"Chevron responded responsibly to the incident at its Frade Field and has dealt transparently with all Brazilian authorities," Glaubitz added. "The company continues to make significant progress in containing any residual oil."
Authorities on Saturday ordered Chevron's Brazil chief George Buck and 16 others to surrender their passports and remain in the country. Criminal charges could be filed by Wednesday, a spokesman for the prosecutor said. A Brazilian judge will then determine whether to proceed with formal indictments.
(Reporting by Jeb Blount; Writing by Brad Haynes; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)