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Chevron exec allowed to leave Brazil after posting bail

An aerial view shows oil that seeped from a well operated by Chevron at Frade, in Campos Basin, Rio de Janeiro state Nov. 18, 2011.

HANDOUT/REUTERS

The head of U.S. oil giant Chevron's Brazil unit will be allowed to leave the country after posting bail of $245,000 (U.S.) in connection with a major spill off Rio de Janeiro state last year, a court official said Thursday.

The official said judge Marcelo Luzio Marques Araujo set the bail amount to make sure George Buck returns to Brazil to stand trial "each time he is summoned."

Brazilian authorities had confiscated the passports of Mr. Buck and 16 other people linked to Chevron Corp. and its driller Transocean Ltd. following last November's spill in the Chevron-operated Frade field off Rio de Janeiro state.

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Brazil's national oil regulator estimated that 2,400 barrels of crude were spilled in the November accident, which led authorities to suspend Chevron's drilling operations and to deny the company access to huge new offshore fields.

In March, Chevron put drilling in Brazil on hold after the spill.

In August, a Brazilian court ordered Chevron and Transocean to stop their oil drilling and shipping activities within 30 days.

State prosecutors had filed legal action against Chevron and Transocean over the November incident, seeking $11-billion for what they have called "immeasurable" environmental damage.

In March, another oil spill was detected at a depth of 1,300 metres in the Frade field, in which state-owned Brazilian oil company Petrobras has a 30-per-cent stake, not far from the site of the bigger spill that occurred in November.

Speaking in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela on Thursday, Don Stelling, Chevron president for Latin America, vowed that his company would not leave Brazil.

"We are there to stay," he told reporters, stressing that Chevron was working to "revive the Frade project."

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"They (Petrobras) have been backing us, we are working together," Mr. Stelling said.

Brazilian press reports, meanwhile, said Kelly Hartshorn, head of Chevron's deep-water operations in Angola, would take over from Mr. Buck who is to be transferred to Houston, Tex.

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