Peru Oil Spill Affected 40-Square-Mile Area, Repsol Says

VENTANILLA, Peru (Reuters) - An executive of Spain's Repsol said an oil spill offshore Peru's capital Lima affected an area of 40 square miles (106 square kilometers).

The spill of over 10,000 barrels of oil in January is one of the largest environmental disasters to affect Peru and its Pacific coast biodiversity, including environmentally protected islands.

While the company says it is close to cleaning up the ocean, it also acknowledged in a press conference on Friday that it will have to monitor environmental conditions for several months ahead, although it downplayed any negative effects.

"The models we are seeing indicate that the (environmental) effects should be limited," said Jaime Fernandez-Cuesta, Repsol's CEO in Peru. "This I'm saying with a lot of caution."

The incident took place on Jan. 15 as oil was being discharged onto Repsol's La Pampilla refinery, Peru's largest.

Repsol first blamed the eruption of a volcano in Tonga for causing abnormal waves that triggered the spill. Then it said the oil tanker had shifted positions abnormally during the discharge, allegations the tanker company denies.

Prosecutors are also investigating the incident and have banned Fernández-Cuesta and three other executives from leaving Peru for the next 18 months.

Fernández-Cuesta told reporters the spill lasted only minutes, although he declined to give a specific timeframe, citing an ongoing investigation.

"The spill lasted minutes, in no case was it a larger amount of time than a few minutes," he said.

Repsol has so far paid 1.5 million soles ($405,405) in fines, executives said, a number that could rise. The company has estimated the cleaning up tasks - excluding fines - will cost about $65 million.

($1 = 3.7000 soles)

(Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; editing by David Evans)

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