When will the spill stop?

Things just keep getting worse for Chevron. First, a deepwater drilling mishap off the coast of Brazil last month caused thousands of barrels of oil to spill into the Atlantic, which only after some dodging did Chevron take responsibility for, followed by Brazil’s petroleum agency deciding to suspend the company’s drilling rights altogether. And then there are the fines which could end up costing Chevron close to $100 million. But lo, it get’s worst yet. Today, the oil giant admitted that the situation is far from resolved as many had assumed. That’s right, the leak continues, and Chevron’s not sure when it can be stopped…

Weeks after the spill began in early November, loosing an estimated 110,000 gallons in the waters 230 miles off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, Chevron moved to plug it with cement. Still, several hundreds of gallons continued to trickle up from the sea floor.

And now, nearly a month after their initial fix was put in place, Chevron Brazil’s environmental supervisor Luiz Alberto Pimenta Borges told leaders that oil is still leaking, and that his company isn’t sure quite how or when it can be capped.

“The amount of oil is becoming gradually smaller,” Borges said at a hearing today. “We expect to have total control of the matter some time in the future. I cannot tell when because we are still evaluating the amount of oil to know how exactly it reached the surface.”

This ongoing spill is Brazil’s worst in recent memory, though many fear that it will hardly be the last. Allowing companies like Chevron rights to drill in the region’s oil-rich Frade field was just one element of the nation’s ambitious energy ambitions directed at becoming one of the world’s leading exporters of petroleum over the course of the next decade. The latest incident serves as a unwelcome reminder of the dangers of offshore drilling; evidence of just how easily things can go wrong, and just how difficult they can be to right.