That’s what it will cost Chevron if Brazilian federal prosecutors in Campos, Rio de Janeiro state, are successful in a $10.6 billion lawsuit claiming environmental and social damages over a 3,000-barrel oil spill. The lawsuit is also asking for the suspension of operations offshore Brazil by Chevron and Transocean. Of course, such an action would have much wider impact than that single well. Ten of the 61 rigs operating in Brazilian waters are owned by Transocean. Nearly one-sixth of the offshore rigs would be put out of service, hampering operations severely. Since the Macondo disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, any oil or gas leak is front-page news. Taking into account the $40 billion that BP has booked against that accident, the cost of the Macondo spill is a little over $8,100 per barrel. Those aren’t the only spills making headlines. ConocoPhillips had to shut in the Penglai 19-3 oil field in Bohai Bay offshore China, which was producing 40,000 barrels per day (b/d). The oil company said it spilled 700 barrels of oil and 2,500 barrels of drilling mud. The government said it spilled more than that. The media was calling for criminal charges in the case. The local companies aren’t immune to spills either. China National Offshore Oil Corp. Ltd. (CNOOC) reported a leak in a subsea gas pipeline in the South China Sea. Two offshore platforms were shut in while the company worked on repairing the leak. The lost production could lead to gas shortages in Guangdong Province. On Dec. 18, Shell halted drilling operations on its Appomattox field in the Gulf of Mexico after it reported that 319 barrels of drilling mud leaked from a booster line connected to the well. That leak involved another one of Transocean’s rigs, the Deepwater Nautilus. Shell temporarily abandoned the well while work on the rig to repair the problem is being done. That could take several weeks, costing millions of dollars. The rig won’t return to the well until Shell and regulators are assured the repairs are complete and the rig can operate safely. Shell’s biggest oil-spill headache, though, is offshore and onshore Nigeria. A 40,000-bbl spill occurred on Dec. 20 while transferring oil to a tanker on the Bonga field offshore. The field’s production capacity is around 200,000 b/d, which is shut in while the spill is being cleaned up. In the Niger Delta, though, is where the biggest oil spills have occurred. The majority of the oil spills in that region occur when Nigerians attempt to steal oil from the pipelines, leading to major ruptures. Shell’s not the only company that has faced that problem. A United Nations agency estimated that it would take 30 years to clean up the Niger Delta, which is a major environmental problem But, the biggest oil spills of all belong to Russia. Although, these aren’t major oil spills, the accumulative effect of oil leaks in Russia’s aging oil and gas infrastructure is massive. A recent article describing the leaks estimated that the equivalent of the Macondo spill happens every two months in Russia. That is a lot of oil. Pictures of oil-covered ponds in the newspapers focused worldwide attention to the environmental damage. Although Mother Nature has amazingly recuperative powers, oil leaks of this magnitude easily overwhelm the ecology in the areas where the spills occur. The industry has to do a better job of stopping and cleaning up those spills. Prior to the Macondo accident, the biggest U.S. oil spill was the blowout of the Wild Mary Sudik on March 26, 1930, in Oklahoma City. An estimated 800,000 bbls of oil sprayed over central Oklahoma during an 11-day period. You probably won’t find any trace of the blowout these days. And, you didn’t hear anything about the well during the Macondo coverage. However, in today’s world, it is not the battle in the judicial courts that must be won, but the battle in the court of public opinion. The industry has a long way to go to achieve that. Contact the author, Scott Weeden, at