Petrobras has put up for sale at a minimum bid of US $ 40 million two drilling rigs that cost US $ 720 million at the beginning of the decade. The units are part of a package of seven probes that will be auctioned by the state-owned company in May.
The P-59 and P-60 rigs were built by a consortium formed by Odebrecht, UTC and Queiroz Galvão (all investigated in Operation Lava Jato) at a construction site owned by Petrobras in Bahia.
They were the first units of this type built in Brazil in 30 years, an event celebrated by the government at the time as another step in the resumption of the Brazilian naval industry.
“I want to tell you that partnerships like this, which means the return to Brazil of shipyards that had disappeared from our scenario since 1980, partnerships like this, between a company like Petrobras and these yards, is what we are going to look for,” addressed President Dilma Rousseff at the P-59 Launching Ceremony in 2012.
According to communiqués distributed at the time, each unit cost US $ 360 million. In a notice published this week, the company stipulates a starting bid of $ 20 million for each.
“It is absurd to sell two new rigs at this price, and it is not the time to sell anything,” criticizes José Maria Rangel, the coordinator of the Federation of Petroleum Workers (FUP), which opposes the state’s asset sales plan .
Petrobras says in a note that the starting bid does not represent the value of the rigs, which will only be sold if the competitors reach a minimum price stipulated internally.
The company, however, does not say what it is.
The units were delivered to Petrobras in 2013. Starting in 2015, they were used as a floating hotel, supporting maintenance operations on other platforms.
Unlike modern drill ships that float and can be brought to ultra-deep waters, P-59 and P-60 are self-propelled units: they are supported on the bottom of the sea by three towers of 145 meters. Thus, they are restricted to operations on water depths less than 106 meters deep.
The bidding documents also include the P-III, P-X, P-XVI, P-XVII, P-XXIII, all older and also focused on oil exploration in shallower areas than the pre-salt.
From 2015, with the cutback of investments in these regions, Petrobras began to “hibernate” these units – that is, they were moved to shipyards and were moored waiting for service.
For the first four, there is no minimum bid. For P-XXIII, which has undergone reforms recently, the interested party will have to pay at least US $ 500 thousand.
Petrobras says that the auction of the rigs responds to the need to “re-adjust its fleet to the company’s current demands”, after the reduction of investments caused by the fall of the oil price and the financial crisis.
In this process, the company decided to renegotiate contracts with suppliers and came to break unilaterally with some units.
In addition, it has been trying to reduce the number of contracts with Sete Brasil, a company created in the Lula government to become the main supplier of pre-salt probes. Of the 49 initial contracts, Petrobras will try to preserve less than 10.
According to data from Baker Hughes, there are in Brazil 11 marine drilling rigs in operation, seven less than a year ago. At the peak of the exploratory activity, in 2011, the number reached 50.
Of the seven units for sale, Petrobras says, only P-59 is still in operation, with activities planned for 2017 and programming for 2018 still under analysis.