May 21, 2018
By Gustavo Gaudarde and Felipe Maciel
More than 31 thousand km² of sea area and 17 thousand km² of land contracted in two years by 17 different operators and estimated investments of R $ 2.7 billion to execute the minimum exploration programs provided for in the contracts.
These are some of the numbers reached with the 2nd and 3rd rounds of sharing and the 14th and 15th rounds of concession of exploratory blocks held in 2017 and early 2018 by the National Petroleum Agency (ANP). The auctions have designed the new exploration map in Brazil, especially offshore, which will guide investment in the coming years.
The investment values are an estimate based on the minimum exploratory programs offered in the auctions, which, calculated in working units have an equivalence defined by the ANP in reais.
Petrobras led the search for new operating of assets participating in all the auctions. As predicted by Pedro Parente, the company was much more selective. And diluted risk by seeking partners for all projects.
The end of Petrobras’ unique operation in the pre-salt brought to the country two new operators in the pre-salt production sharing. Shell and Equinor (Statoil’s new name) command the southern areas of Gato do Mato and Norte de Carcará, which were sold at the 2nd pre-salt auction. Shell is also the operator of Alto Cabo Frio Oeste Block, sold in the 3rd pre-salt auction.
The result of the 15th round of the ANP, held in March this year, indicates a beginning of change in the trajectory of the auctions. ExxonMobil was the company that took most areas as operator, in the Campos, Santos and Sergipe-Alagoas basins.
With the 2017 and 2018 rounds, the area operated by companies besides Petrobras has more than doubled, reaching 33 thousand km² in the Brazilian offshore. Petrobras currently has 45 thousand km² of offshore area, 13 thousand km² contracted in recent rounds, according to the Exploration and Production Database of ANP. Considering contracts of the previous rounds, until 2016, the state company had 32 thousand km² offshore.
Shell is the private operator with the largest exploration area in the country. ExxonMobil has a total area of 9,900 km², which has, after the four new auctions, 8,800 km² of exploration area in Brazil with participation in 19 blocks.
A good sign, after all, one of the reasons for the stagnation of investments in exploration in the country was the concentration of projects in the hands of Petrobras. When the state-owned and largest company in the country had to deal with its domestic crisis in a low-price scenario, it took the whole industry.
The pre-salt is the protagonist, but this time the leader of the investment attraction is the Campos Basin, finally entering a growth trajectory after ten years without new contracted areas. For Campos alone, the ANP estimates investments of R $ 1.6 billion.
The four auctions generated demand for the drilling of 12 wells in the pre-salt, eight in the Campos Basin and four in the Santos Basin. But companies are already preparing to go beyond the minimum program.
Petrobras began the environmental licensing of the Alto Cabo Frio Central exploration block in the Campos Basin, in partnership with BP in the 3rd pre-salt auction held by ANP in October last year. The consortium is licensing six wells, one firm and five conditioned to the first.
Shell is licensing the drilling of five wells in the pre-salt, two in the southern block of Gato do Mato, in the Santos Basin, and three in the Alto Cabo Frio Oeste, in the Santos Basin. The oil company signed last week the contracts of production sharing of the areas and began the licensing processes the next day. The company intends to start drilling campaigns in January 2019.
To get an idea of the size of the change, five exploratory wells (including special wells) were drilled in the Brazilian offshore in the first quarter of 2018. The most recent exploratory drilling done by another operator was two years ago, in the Campos Basin, in the Pão de Açúcar project, now operated by Equinor.
From 2016 onwards, only Petrobras contracted exploration wells and, mainly, for the Libra campaign and for prospecting in mature fields.