Why is the Brazil oil spill still described as “mysterious”?

Guest “why?” by David Middleton

Mysterious oil spill threatens marine biodiversity haven in Brazil

By Herton Escobar Nov. 4, 2019 , 4:50 PM

Marine scientists in Brazil are closely monitoring the incursion of a mysterious oil spill into the largest biodiversity hot spot in the South Atlantic Ocean. The region, known as the Abrolhos Bank, shelters almost 9000 square kilometers of reefs in shallow, warm waters along the central part of the Brazilian coastline.

More than 4000 tons of crude oil residue from an unknown source have landed on the country’s northeast seaboard since late August, contaminating hundreds of beaches, estuaries, reefs, and mangroves along a 2500-kilometer stretch of shoreline.


Chemical analysis indicated early on that the oil was from Venezuela, but the source of the spill was a complete mystery for the first 2 months. President Jair Bolsonaro’s government was heavily criticized for not responding quickly or strongly enough to the wave of contamination. Although it eventually deployed ships and troops to help with the cleanup, the administration also tried to blame nongovernmental organizations and left-wing conspirators for the crisis, as it did for massive fires and a rising deforestation rate in the Amazon. Minister of the Environment Ricardo Salles even tweeted a picture of a Greenpeace ship on 24 October, suggesting—without any proof—that it was responsible for the spill.


On Friday, the Brazilian Federal Police finally released the name of a real suspect: the Bouboulina, a Greek tanker that passed the Brazilian northeast coast in late July, carrying 1 million barrels worth of crude oil from Venezuela to Malaysia. According to the investigation, satellite images show a big oil stain appearing offshore on 29 July, about 730 kilometers off the coast of Paraíba state, just as the Bouboulina passed by. The company responsible for the ship denies responsibility and says the Bouboulina delivered all of its cargo to Malaysia.

But the suspicion fits well with computer simulations run by UFRJ’s engineering institute (Coppe), which indicate that the oil came from an offshore source about 700 kilometers away and was spilled about 1 month before it hit land. “The distribution pattern of the oil along the coast and the possible source indicated by the police are both consistent with our model,” Coppe oceanographer Luiz Assad told Science.

Federal investigators estimated that the Bouboulina spilled—either accidentally or intentionally—about 2.5 thousand tons of crude oil, but it’s unknown how accurate that estimate is or how much of the spilled oil will reach land.

Science! As in “she blinded me with”

The oil is from Venezuela. There’s nothing mysterious about it. It appears that it was either accidentally or intentionally spilled by a Greek tanker… Although there are certainly other possibilities. But the fact is that the oil is from the failed Marxist nation, Venezuela.

In this petroleum geologist’s opinion, the false perpetuation of the mysterious nature of this oil spill was to direct the blame on Brazil’s offshore oil production and to attack the Trump of Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro, even though the possibility of the spill being of Brazilian origin was ruled out back in September.

Although there is extensive oil exploration activity offshore Brazil, authorities have ruled out that as the source of the spill.

State-controlled oil company Petróleo Brasileiro SA said it had performed laboratory analysis of the oil and determined, by observing its molecules, that “the organic compounds of the material found are not compatible with that of the oils produced and marketed by the company.”

The next nearest oil exploration areas are Venezuela and the Gulf of Mexico, but there has been no reported issues from those regions.

Reuters, September 27, 2019

Despite this clear proof that the fake-mysterious spill had nothing to do with Brazil’s (or anyone else’s) offshore oil production, the eco-loons still babble nonsense like this:

This is exactly the type of disaster that Oceana and its allies have worked hard to prevent. Just weeks ago, environmental advocates successfully convinced companies that the risk of drilling for oil off the coast of Bahia, a state in northeastern Brazil, was too high. When the government attempted to auction off four oil fields near the Abrolhos Marine National Park, the would-be bidders fell silent. Oil industry analyst Adriano Pires told the Associated Press that companies “didn’t want to get themselves in the middle of an environmental mess.”

EcoWatch, November 5, 2019

The poor results of the recent licensing rounds, had nothing to do with the spill…

UPDATE 4-Big oil stuns Brazil in back-to-back auction flops

Marianna Parraga, Gram Slattery and Marta Nogueira

RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 7 (Reuters) – Major global oil firms snubbed a second Brazilian oil auction in a row on Thursday, passing up offshore blocks and forcing officials to reconsider a bidding system that gives a privileged position to state-run Petroleo Brasileiro SA.

The only block awarded in Thursday’s bidding went to Petrobras, as the Brazilian state-run firm is known, and Chinese state firm CNODC, a unit of China National Petroleum Corp, which offered the minimum bid. Four other blocks received no bids.

The result, following a lack of foreign interest in an even bigger Wednesday round, was a wake-up call to those who expected this week to crown Brazil as uncontested champion of the Latin American oil industry.

Analysts have agreed in recent days that promising oil prospects in Brazil’s pre-salt area, where billions of barrels of oil are trapped under a layer of salt beneath the sea floor, are getting pricey even for oil majors with strong interest. The deepwater blocks also require enormous long-term investments compared with alternatives such as shale fields.

“All majors are focused on capital discipline and value versus volume. They will not bid at any cost for pre-salt assets,” said Marcelo de Assis, head of Latin America upstream for consultancy Wood Mackenzie.


Decio Oddone, the head of Brazilian oil regulator ANP, said the special rights of Petrobras discouraged some rivals, adding that he was surprised at the results, as he expected at least three blocks to be awarded in Thursday’s bidding round.


Brazilian Mines and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque said “it does not seem to make sense” for Brazil to maintain the special Petrobras rights exclusively in the area. He said the government must learn a lesson from the auctions to get better results in the future.

“We understand from what the companies tell us that our areas continue to be very attractive and productive,” the minister said. Other officials backed up the sentiment, pointing to strong foreign demand in prior pre-salt rounds since 2017.


“Brazil is competing with opportunities everywhere in the world,” said Assis, of Wood Mackenzie. “Brazil’s pre-salt assets are attractive, but up to a price.”


Why continue to describe the spill as “mysterious”? Why try to link it to offshore leasing, drilling and production? Why do they keep trying to blame Bolsonaro for it? Yes… Those were rhetorical questions.


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Reply to  heysuess
November 12, 2019 10:55 am


Damn two months..

Brazilian investigators said on Friday a Greek-flagged ship carrying Venezuelan crude was the source of oil tarring thousands of kilometers of coastline over the past two

Reply to  Sunny
November 12, 2019 11:34 am

My first question after reading david’s post was: how the heck did oil stay on the surface over 700 kms and two months without dissipating. This article answers it. It didn’t. The final sentence: “Because the heavy crude does not float on the ocean surface like most oil slicks, officials said traditional methods of tracking it and keeping it off the shore have been ineffective.”

Reply to  heysuess
November 12, 2019 12:11 pm
Reply to  heysuess
November 13, 2019 5:11 am

All after the fact documents are easily faked. Someone want’s a piece of paper with pretty numbers on it, of course the tanker owners can come up with a piece of paper. So what?

Bolsonaro and Brazil did make one big mistake here, and it was to be naive about the media. They should have realized that the blame was going to be placed on them right from the start, and they should have pushed the Venezuelan oil explanation hard right from the start. That’s the only way to combat the media these days.

Joel O'Bryan
November 12, 2019 10:56 am

pre-salt asset?
I’ve never heard oil under a salt formation called that.

A margarita is also a pre-salt asset until the glass rim reaches my lips.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
November 12, 2019 4:26 pm

Anyone recognize that name “Bouboulina”? (Hint: It’s from a movie starring Anthony Quinn.)

Doug Huffman
Reply to  brians356
November 13, 2019 3:42 am

That may have been the most recent public use of the name, but it is older and more significant than that.

Y. Knott
Reply to  brians356
November 13, 2019 6:22 am

Ummm, wasn’t there a song about that? “Bouboulina, Bouboulina, men have named you…”


D@mn – now I’ll have that tune stuck in my head all week…

mike macray
Reply to  brians356
November 15, 2019 6:13 am

One of my all time favorites: Zorba the Greek!

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
November 14, 2019 5:21 pm

Joel it’s a bit of geologese. The salt formation, a ‘marker horizon’ , will have a name but will be referred to in this manner coloquially. The “pre” refers to the older oil horizon(s) at greater depth (you got that part) and there appears to be some unstated production complications “pre salt” that make the resources expensive to develop. It may simply be the reservoirs are smaller and more expensive to define and produce. David probably knows exactly why they aren’t as attractive.

John McClure
November 12, 2019 10:56 am

Why haven’t they simply checked to see how much oil was loaded and subsequently unloaded from the tanker?

Jean Parisot
Reply to  John McClure
November 13, 2019 1:24 am

Well, loaded Venezuela, unloaded Malaysia … those gauges might have climatologist type effects.

November 12, 2019 10:57 am

Way OT….but what happened to this?
NASA had 120 days..and by law they had to reply

…it’s way past due and not one word


Reply to  Latitude
November 12, 2019 4:37 pm

Is very good question, Latitude!

Reply to  ATheoK
November 13, 2019 5:14 am

HA! Rules are for the peasants, not for them!!! How silly to think they would care about “rules”!

Robert W Turner
November 12, 2019 10:59 am

So how did the Greek tanker just simply lose about 3% of its load? They should be able to prove themselves innocent very easily if they are indeed innocent.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Robert W Turner
November 12, 2019 11:49 am

Also, who opened the spigot on the tanker? And who knew it was opened?

How long does it take for 25,000 tons of oil to pour from a tanker? Can it be done surreptitiously?

Maybe the captain was not in the open-spigot loop.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Pat Frank
November 12, 2019 5:17 pm

Sounds like a systemic error.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Pat Frank
November 12, 2019 5:34 pm

They probably took on more heavy Venezuelan crude than they could safely carry in the heavy seas of winter around Cape Horn. Leaving Venezuela and being off Brazil’s coast clearly indicated they weren’t going to use a canal, either Suez or Panama. Probably realizing the weather was bad (fm forecasts), the Captain had to dump it to raise the ship to handle the expected seas. But of course, he had schedule to keep with bonuses for on-time delivery so he couldn’t go back to port to unload. Pump and Dump.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
November 13, 2019 5:08 am

it’s just like someone with an RV opening their septic drain valve while they’re rolling down the highway. Ain’t nobody who does that ever gonna admit they did it.

Bruce Cobb
November 12, 2019 11:26 am

I bet a payoff was made to Malaysia, to keep them quiet about any shortfall of oil that was delivered.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
November 12, 2019 4:34 pm

Didn’t the oil come from Venezuela?

If we get into conspiracies, it would be easier to cheat it on that end, assuming the spill plan was in place from the beginning.

Martin C
November 12, 2019 12:02 pm

Some numbers don’t make sense here – the article states that 2.5 thousand tons were spilled, but the beginning of the article states 4000 tons were cleaned up . . .

How does 2.5 thousand tons turn into 4000 tons . .or is the ‘sludge’ being cleaned up composed of a lot of water/dirt/sediments. Even then, that is quite an ‘increase’ – from 2.5 to 4000 . . .

Maybe the 2.5 was ‘million’ tons, which would have then been 25000 thousand tons . . . ?

November 12, 2019 12:06 pm

From EcoWatch:
This is exactly the type of disaster that Oceana and its allies have worked hard to prevent.

EcoWatch is ahead of the game — they’re already implementing Orwell’s 1984 game-plan.

Rich Davis
Reply to  beng135
November 12, 2019 4:50 pm

Reliable sources have it that Oceana has always been at war with Eurasa

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Rich Davis
November 12, 2019 5:20 pm


mike macray
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
November 15, 2019 6:26 am


I heard Eustachia …but that’s just hearsay.

CD in Wisconsin
November 12, 2019 12:21 pm

“…On Friday, the Brazilian Federal Police finally released the name of a real suspect: the Bouboulina, a Greek tanker that passed the Brazilian northeast coast in late July, carrying 1 million barrels worth of crude oil from Venezuela to Malaysia….”

Excuse my geography, but if the tanker was carrying crude oil from Venezuela to Malaysia, what was it doing off the coast of Brazil? A much quicker and easier route for the tanker would be to simply go from Venezuela through the Panama Canal and then west across the Pacific, wouldn’t it?

Venezuela’s oil is exported from it’s northern coast, is it not?

Maybe the tanker was too wide to go through the canal?

Curious George
Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
November 12, 2019 1:34 pm

Going through the Panama Canal is not cheap. The tanker was probably taking the cheapest route.

CD in Wisconsin
Reply to  Curious George
November 12, 2019 2:48 pm

But going around South America is going to use quite a bit more fuel, will it not? Is that still cheaper than going through the Panama Canal?

Robert W. Turner
Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
November 12, 2019 4:53 pm

It probably is indeed the size of the ship/

Mike Ozanne
Reply to  Robert W. Turner
November 13, 2019 12:04 am

“Bouboulina” has a fully laden deadweight of 164000 tonnes NEW PANAMAX limit is 120000 tonnes

Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
November 12, 2019 4:02 pm
November 12, 2019 1:15 pm

Is this “”Oil spill”” a chemical problem, i.e. will it finally be eaten by
Bacteria, or is it a Political problem, with the suspicion that it was
released to help the likes of the Greens lobby. Or perhaps its both.

If political then someone is prepared to spend a lot of money.


Brian Valentine
November 12, 2019 1:40 pm

The good news is, microorganisms grow quickly in the warm water and will eradicate the oil quickly.

November 12, 2019 2:38 pm

Bringing oil to Malaysia? You mean bringing coal to Newcastle?

Mark Freeman
November 12, 2019 2:59 pm

The allegations are serious enough to justify inventing the proof. /s

November 12, 2019 5:15 pm

“the eco-loons still babble nonsense like this”

Must admit it’s a bit hard to follow their logic sometimes-

In particular-

‘While the outlook may seem dire, the IEA said that tectonic shifts in energy demand and consumption are possible. The agency pointed to the United States’ path to becoming a net exporter of oil and gas — once thought impossible — as evidence that wide-scale change is feasible.
“The shale revolution highlights that rapid change in the energy system is possible when an initial push to develop new technologies is complemented by strong market incentives and large-scale investment,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said.’

November 12, 2019 10:48 pm

You’ve heard of snowflakes (historically speaking of course because the kiddies won’t know what they are) well it seems the future is metal flakes-
Which naturally got me thinking Oz may be way ahead of the curve with our gun buyback and we can pulverise them all and make gunpowder. You just have to let the juices really flow with this climate changey stuff.

Gary Pearse
November 14, 2019 6:04 pm

4000t is pretty puny on 9000 km2 of even peewacker grade biodiversity. Let’s see…4000t ~100,000 gallons. That is 110 gals per sq km of ocean. This isn’t enough to oil the hinges of the pelecypods that live in the region.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Gary Pearse
November 14, 2019 6:19 pm

Oops 1,000,000 gallons yielding 110 gallons per sq km.

%d bloggers like this:
Verified by MonsterInsights