Rising Environmental Concerns greet the Woods Hole Group in Brazil

New Wave Media

June 16, 2013

The Woods Hole Group (WHG), headquartered in East Falmouth, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, recently announced the launching of its first office in Brazil over increasing concerns about possible environmental problems which may be triggered by the continued increase in O&G exploration in Brazil.

There are no local environmental organizations in Brazil that can match the experience, expertise and credibility of the WHG in terms of providing comprehensive solutions to challenges and consequences of environmental problems. Although Brazil´s official environmental impact agency “IBAMA” is undoubtedly experienced and even efficient in its environmental impact monitoring, it is still a government agency and therefore it can hardly be considered completely independent.

It is increasingly important to have other independent organizations overseeing and studying the various possible scenarios that could cause accidents which would affect the local environment. The O&G industry is an obvious medium for environments problems to occur, however, it is hardly the only industry that may be responsible for triggering environmental problems. The mining industry, the growing shipbuilding industry, the nuclear industry and the historically problematic Brazilian fisheries industry are also of notable concern.

It is interesting to note that the new office in Rio de Janeiro will be WHG´s first office outside of the United States. That is not to say that the WHG does not normally operated internationally, far from that, they are re-known worldwide for their environmental impact work, along with risk assessment consultancy and operational guidance to industry players.

The WHG brings to Brazil its unique capability of supplying teams of experienced professionals to support their client companies and government agencies. Today Brazil is in dire need to better its sustainable coastal development policies, as the country has a 8 thousand kilometer long coastline and sustainable coastal development projects are spread thin along this coast. The problems concerning fisheries are serious. There is very little control of fisheries activities offshore or onshore and precious little offshore monitoring of fisheries activities, including small local fishing fleets and major national and international fishing fleets operating over the Brazilian continental platform. Along the northeastern coast of Rio de Janeiro there have been many complaints of aggressive and irresponsible local fishermen using explosives offshore.

In relation to the O&G industry, the major concerns may be related to the expected increase of drilling activities, more significantly in the important deepwater reservoirs, which are vast and constantly growing, up to now it is considered that the pre-salt region expends for over 800km from north of the state of Santa Catarina to the south of the state of Espirito Santo, this area is also considered to be about 200km wide from east to west and reach in excess of 300km offshore.

The deepwater pre-salt exploration and development in only just beginning with many more reservoirs expected to be uncorked in the next years. It would be foolhardy to believe that accidents will not occur when hundreds of deepwater wells are being drilled. State O&G operator Petrobras has a good deepwater exploration safety track record but with the proposed level of intensified deepwater drilling the danger of major spills will only increase. Therefore the presence of such a dedicated and respectable environmental group such as WHG can only be good news, with the extra bonus of having Brazilian scientists working with some of the best environmental, scientific, and engineering consulting teams in the world.


Claudio Paschoa

Paschoa, Claudio
Claudio Paschoa is Marine Technology Reporter's correspondent in Brazil.
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