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French supermajor Total is giving up operatorship of five exploration blocks offshore Brazil in an environmentally sensitive area for which it has failed to secure drilling permits numerous times.

Total said on Monday that it had notified its partners last month that it is resigning from its role of operator of five exploration blocks in the Foz do Amazonas Basin, 120 kilometers (74 miles) offshore Brazil. Total has also notified Brazil’s regulator ANP of its decision to give up operatorship of the blocks, which opens a six-month period in which a new operator will be appointed.

Total did not give details about why it is pulling out as the operator of those exploration blocks, but the French company has been denied in recent years permits to drill for oil and gas in those blocks close to the mouth of the Amazon and has met opposition from environmental groups about its plans to drill in areas where coral reefs have been spotted.

In 2018, Greenpeace said that a team of scientists onboard a Greenpeace ship had found a rhodolith field in the area Total was planning to drill.

“Now that we know the Amazon Reef extension overlaps with the perimeter of Total’s oil blocks, there is no other option for the Brazilian government but to deny the company’s license to drill for oil in the region,” Thiago Almeida, Greenpeace Brazil campaigner, said in April 2018.

At the end of 2018, Brazil’s environmental regulator Ibama rejected Total’s plan to drill in the blocks for a fifth and final time.

Oil and gas drilling in the blocks could endanger coral reefs and biodiversity in the area, Ibama said, agreeing with a technical assessment of the area.

In 2019, the regulator again denied Total’s request to reconsider restarting the licensing process for the blocks, meaning that the oil giant had to start the licensing process—on which Total had spent five years—from scratch.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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