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Regulatory fixes ‘key’ to new Brazil investments

Regulatory fixes: Brazilian Petroleum Institute president Jorge Camargo

Regulatory developments to leverage the competitiveness of the Brazilian oil and gas industry were discussed in a plenary session on the second day of the Rio Oil & Gas conference.

All four panelists agreed that regulatory changes – including giving greater flexibility to local content requirements, the extension of the Repetro tax regime, the end of Petrobras’ role as the sole operator in the pre-salt province, and having clear rules on unitisation – are key to making Brazil attractive again to international and private investors.

“We are all in search of the lost competitiveness and profitability after the end of the commodities super cycle,” said Jorge Camargo, president of the Brazilian Petroleum Institute (IBP).

According to Camargo, combined revenues in the global oil and gas industry fell from $3.2 trillion in 2013 to a projected $1.5 trillion in 2016 due to the sharp drop in crude prices, and Brazil is one of the countries that has been affected the most.

“A few years ago, there was this overall perception that oil prices would stay above $100 per barrel in the long run. Now, all oil companies are reviewing their projects to this new level of $50 per barrel,” he said.

“And there is no doubt that the environment for work in Brazil in recent years has weighted on investment decisions, making the country less attractive.”

Camargo highlighted that the Brazilian potential has not changed, with pre-salt representing a big opportunity for investments, but he said reforms – such as the ones being approved by new President Michel Temer and his administration – are necessary to unlock the sector.

A study published by Brazil’s national development bank BNDES said the country is expected to receive 612 billion reais ($196.1 billion) in investments from 2016 to 2019, of which 53% will come from the oil and gas industry.

Camargo pointed out three potentially huge pre-salt blocks in the Santos basin – Saturno, Peroba and Pau-Brasil, covering an area of approximately 1100 square kilometres – as likely candidates to be auctioned off soon by the government.

Augusto Salomon, executive president of the Brazilian gas association Abegas, called specifically for the government to promote regulatory changes in the natural gas market.

“We are working on three pillars – ensure competition, develop the market and improve governance. If we can do that, this can generate 27 billion reais worth of investments in the gas sector,” said Salomon.

Petrobras is in the process of divesting a number of natural gas assets, and recently sold a 90% stake in the NTS pipeline business for $5.2 billion.

Leonardo Gadotti Filho, head of Brazil’s lubricants union Sindicom, defended actions to unlock investments in the biofuels sector, while Jose Firmo, president of Abespetro, the industry association for supply chain companies, talked about competitiveness and scale in the Brazilian market.

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