Oil spills from Petrobras pipeline into Brazil coastal area

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Oil spilled from a pipeline linking a main Atlantic Ocean terminal with a refinery near Rio de Janeiro on Friday, Brazil's state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA said. The spill contaminated a coastal wetland area and leaked into the ocean, a spokesman for the union representing employees at the refinery said. The narrow coastal region where the spill occurred is in Rio de Janeiro's Costa Verde or "Green Coast" - one of Brazil's most beloved tourist regions and home to one of the last stands of the endangered Atlantic-Forest ecosystem. Petrobras, as the company is known, said 600 liters (3.77 barrels) of oil leaked from the pipeline, 50 liters of which reached the ocean. The oil spilled from a 40-inch (1.01-meter) diameter ORBIG pipeline that runs 123 kilometers (76 miles) from Angra dos Reis, where the company unloads some of its largest tankers, to the Duque de Caxias Refinery (REDUC), where much of the oil is turned into gasoline, diesel and other fuels. REDUC, in suburban Rio de Janeiro, can process about 242,000 barrels of crude oil a day. REDUC is also a hub for pipelines linking oil terminals on Rio's Guanabara Bay, oil and gas fields in the offshore Campos Basin and refineries further inland. While the spill is relatively small, it is the latest in a series of refinery, pipeline and offshore-oil-platform accidents to hit the indebted and cash-strapped company. Union officials and analysts have raised concerns that a giant corruption scandal may be hampering Petrobras' maintenance operations. Arranging for such work has been complicated after the company banned more than 20 of Brazil's major contractors from bidding for Petrobras projects after they were found to be involved in a price-fixing, bribery and political kick-back scheme. Petrobras said the leak was caused by an attempt to steal fuel. The ORBIG pipeline is normally used to carry crude oil. Also on Friday, a fire at a Petrobras fuel and crude pipeline pumping station in Atibaia, in Sao Paulo state, took two hours to control, the company said in a statement. On Saturday, June 13, an attempt to make an illegal connection to what thieves thought was a water pipe, led to the a rupture in a gas pipeline near REDUC, the union said. No on was hurt in any of the accidents. (Reporting by Jeb Blount, Marta Nogueira and Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Editing by Chris Reese and Grant McCool)