Presalt oil and natural gas provide increasing share of Brazil’s production

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2013 Brazil produced 2.0 million bpd of crude oil and nearly one trillion ft3 of gross natural gas. Within these figures, the share of production from presalt resources found under thick layers of salt thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface remains small but continues to increase. Crude oil production from the presalt layer was 15% of total production in 2013, a significant increase from 0.4% of total production in 2008 when oil from the presalt was first produced. Similarly, Brazil’s presalt natural gas production represents 14% of total production, up from 0.5% of total production in 2008.

Exploration and development of Brazil’s presalt layer began in and around the Tupi field almost a decade ago, with first production in 2008. Further exploration showed hydrocarbon deposits in the presalt layer spread through the Santos, Campos, and Espirito Santo basins. Following Tupi, pilot projects in the Lula and Sapinhoa fields began production in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

With the exception of the Libra field, all presalt areas currently under development were noncompetitively granted to state controlled Petrobras, the dominant participant in Brazil’s oil sector. Through the Transfer of Rights Agreement of 2010, in exchange for US$42 billion of Petrobras’ shares, the government gave Petrobras rights to explore and produce 5 billion boe from six presalt areas in the Santos Basin: Florim, Sul de Guara, Entorno de lara, Sul de Lula, and Nordeste de Tupi.

Petrobras discovered significant reserves in addition to the original 5 million boe. In June 2014, the government granted Petrobras the rights to produce surplus volumes estimated at 9.8 – 15.2 billion boe found in the Buzios, Entorno de lara, Florim, and Nordeste de Tupi. Petrobras expects first production from the Transfer of Rights areas by 2016 and from the surplus volumes by 2021.

In October 2013, Brazil concluded its first presalt licensing round for the Libra field, estimated to hold 8 – 12 billion bbls of receoverable reserves. The lone and winning bid was a consortium of Petrobras, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, and Chinese national oil companies China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC). First production is scheduled for 2017 with peak production of 1.3 million bpd expected by 2030.

In November 2013, a month after concluding its first presalt licensing round for the Libra field, Petrobras announced the discovery of the Franco field, a presalt finding, which could be larger than the 8 – 12 billion bbls of recoverable reserves found in the Libra field. Additionally, in May 2014, Petrobras made another presalt finding of potentially 5 billion bbls in the Entomo de lara block. Brazil anticipates oil production from the presalt layer will account for most of its projected production growth through 2030.


Adapted from a press release by Emma McAleavey.

Published on 09/01/2015


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