Congress expects favorable vote for pre-salt bill

The bill removes the requirement for Petrobras to operate in all subsalt consortia with a 30% minimum.

The bill changes the rules of oil exploration in the subsalt layer and should begin to be voted in the House next week.  It promises to be the symbol of new government’s shift in this sector. With the imminent definitive removal of President Dilma Rousseff, the government of President in Michel Temer will get rid of two of the main assumptions defended by PT administrations: Petrobras mandatory presence in the exploration of all areas of the pre-salt and the demand for local content in the manufacture of equipment.

Authored by current Foreign Minister, José Serra (PSDB), the text removes the requirement for Petrobras to operate in all subsalt consortia with a minimum stake of 30%. Also the company will no longer be required to be the sole operator in all areas. The expectation is that it will be approved without changes, and be sanctioned as soon as possible and need not return to the Senate. “The government base is favorable. That’s enough. Only the PT is against,” says  congress president, Rodrigo Maia (DEM-RJ).

While the PT opposition argues that the project is the first step in the weakening of Petrobras and subsequent privatization of the state company, the new government considers it a fundamental change to unlock investment and alleviate the Union and Petrobras, which has a debt of R$ 450 billion. “The law will alleviate the Brazilian population of paying more taxes. With it, the country will receive significant values,” said Minister of Civil House, Eliseu Padilha.

The project of making the country one of the largest producers of oil and apply the proceeds from the exploitation of pre-salt on health and education has not been abandoned, according to the Secretary of Oil and Gas of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Márcio Felix. But  the Temer government believes that these goals will be more easily achieved if more companies participate in such investments, he said.

“We have a small range of major players in the Brazilian offshore and now we can get the aim for much more sustainable results, with less regulation, lower cost to the taxpayer and more benefit to society,” he said.

In his inaugural speech, the president of Petrobras, Pedro Parente, defended the change in legislation. For the executive secretary of the Brazilian Institute of Oil, Gas and Biofuels (IBP), Antônio Guimarães, the approval of the project will be key to the resumption of auctions of pre salt exploration fields. “If we have a competitive environment, the companies will return to invest. You can generate 300 to 400 thousand jobs in the coming years.”

But the new law has its usual opponents.  Former president of Petrobras, Jose Sergio Gabrielli, is against the withdrawal of the mandatory leadership in the consortia in all areas of the pre-salt. “This financial crisis will be overcome,” he said. For him, the ideal would be to postpone the pre-salt auctions for another two or three years, until Petrobras can return to participate. The president of the Federation of Oil Workers (FUP), Jose Maria Rangel, argues that the current legislation has not even been tested and should not be modified. “What is behind the actions of the Congress is the interests of the multinationals.”

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