Five dead in Norwegian rig blast

The death toll from a blast which ripped through a Norwegian oil rig off Brazil has risen to five, with another four people still missing, the rig's Oslo-based owner said on Thursday.

Five dead in Norwegian rig blast
The FPSO Cidade de Sao Mateus. Photo: BW Offshore / NTB scanpix

Wednesday's explosion — which the oil workers' union said was caused by a gas leak — also left two people injured, according to Norwegian owner  

The incident adds to the woes of Petrobras, the embattled Brazilian state oil giant which is mired in a huge graft scandal involving alleged kickbacks to politicians. Petrobras had previously said the accident on the rig, which operates in the Camarupim field around 120 kilometres (75 miles) off Brazil's southeastern coast, killed three people, wounded 10 and left six missing.

There were 74 people on board the FPSO Cidade de Sao Mateus rig at the time of the blast, which the Brazilian oil workers' union said was caused by a gas leak in the engine room.

BW Offshore was not immediately available to confirm the information.

"Based on the latest information we have, five fatalities have been confirmed. Four of our men are still missing," BW Offshore chief executive Carl Arnet said in a statement. "All others are accounted for and receiving medical care where needed, with two in critical condition. We cannot rest until the last four of our men are found."

Another company official, Torfinn Buaroey, told AFP the rig had been evacuated overnight and that the search operation would resume on Thursday. State oil regulator the National Petroleum Agency (ANP) said on Wednesday that the rig where the explosion occurred had daily average production of 2.25 million cubic metres of natural gas and 2,200 barrels of oil in December.'

Petrobras has been hit by a string of recent accidents at refineries and rigs. Last month, an explosion at a refinery in the northeastern state of Bahia wounded three people.

In December 2013, a fire forced Petrobras to shut down production at an oil rig after two workers were wounded. A week later, a refinery fire in Rio de Janeiro forced the company to temporarily close a production unit. And in February 2014, Petrobras partly evacuated an offshore rig that was tilting over.

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Norsk Hydro seals deal with Brazil over environmental dispute

Norwegian metals group Norsk Hydro said on Thursday it has reached agreement with the Brazilian authorities following a dispute over the discharge of untreated water from its aluminium factory Alunorte, the largest in the world.

Norsk Hydro seals deal with Brazil over environmental dispute
Norsk Hydro's headquarter in Oslo. Photo: Vidar Ruud/NTB Scanpix

Brazilian authorities had accused Norsk Hydro of having contaminated the Baracena municipality's waters with bauxite residues which they claimed had overflowed from a deposit basin at the Alunorte plant after heavy rainfall on 
February 16 and 17.

They slapped Norsk Hydro with two fines of 10 million reais (€2.5 million, around $3 million) each and ordered the aluminium supplier to halve its production at the site and suspend the use of the basin. 

“On September 5, Alunorte signed two agreements representing a milestone to resume normal operations at the alumina refinery in Para, Brazil,” Norsk Hydro said in a statement.

Under the terms of the two agreements signed Wednesday in Brazil, Norsk Hydro has committed to paying a total of 160 million reais in fines, investments and food coupons for local communities.

The group also pledges to pour another 150 million reais into local development projects that will benefit communities living near Alunorte.

Norsk Hydro said no timeline has yet been set for the resumption of full operations.

“Neither of the agreements signed include provisions or establishes a timeline to resume normal operations at the refinery. However, Hydro consider the agreements as an important step towards resuming operations,” theNorwegian company said.

'Completely unacceptable'

According to an institute reporting to Brazil's ministry of public health, the discharge into the local river posed risks to fishermen and other local communities living near the Amazon as the water they drink and bathe in has high levels of aluminium and heavy metals. 

Norsk Hydro denies any toxic spill, but admits there was an unauthorised discharge of untreated rainwater.

“Internal and external reviews confirm that there was no overflow from the bauxite residue deposits or harmful spills from the February rain event,” the company said.

Norsk Hydro had in March apologised for the discharge, adding that it was “completely unacceptable and in breach with what Hydro stands for”.

The company will likely benefit from a return to full production capacity, after seeing its second quarter profits hit by the Brazil dispute.

Investors welcomed news of the agreement, bringing Norsk Hydro's share price up 4.5 percent in Thursday mid-morning trading.