There is a future beyond the pre-salt

May 21, 2018

By Gustavo Gaudarde and Felipe Maciel

In common among the Espírito Santo, Sergipe and Potiguar Basins there are deepwater oil discoveries that have come out of the radar for the development of new Petrobras production projects, as soon as it was necessary to concentrate investments in the pre-salt. The result of the crisis that the company passed, the prices of the barrel oil and, on the positive side, the scale of the Santos projects.

The projects in the most advanced phase remain uncertain. Operated by Petrobras, the commercialization declarations have not yet been made and there are no planned production units within the horizon of confirmed investments.

Nevertheless, interest in the three regions is increasing in the auctions held since 2015, with ten blocks being contracted in the Potiguar Basin, six blocks in Sergipe, and eight blocks in Espírito Santo. Operator projects from seven different operators, including Petrobras.


Deepwater activity is one of the promises to create a new offshore nucleus in the country. In 2013, Petrobras estimated that its projects in the region would have recoverable resources in the order of 1 billion barrels of oil and natural gas. Projects for the construction of a gas treatment unit and energy flow routes have already circulated on the market. This year a TLD is scheduled to test the productivity of one of the reservoirs.

In the 13th round, QGEP was the only one to contract offshore blocks. It took two in Sergipe. In the 14th and 15th rounds, it was ExxonMobil’s turn to take another four blocks and the expectation is for minimum investments of R$ 15 million to meet the exploration program foreseen in the auction.

Espirito Santo

The activity in the Basin has been strongly impacted in recent years. The Parque dos Candes and, less well known, Parque dos Cachorros projects are paralyzed. These are oil discoveries that had platforms provided for in Petrobras’ business plan (the Espírito Santo Deepwater project).

Since the 11th round in 2013, the future of the region began to take a new direction. The consortium formed by Petrobras and Equinor (new name of Statoil) invested in six blocks – the Norwegian operates four areas – and in the 15th round Repsol and China’s state-owned CNOOC have contracted one area each.

With this, CNOOC will debut as an offshore operator in Brazil. The company is a partner in other projects including Mero, along with state-owned CNPC and Shell, Total and Petrobras. Repsol has the operation that led to the discovery of Pão de Açúcar, Gávea and Seat in the Campos Basin (the project is now operated by Equinor) and now extends the portfolio to Espírito Santo .


In 2013, Petrobras confirmed the presence of oil in the deep waters of Rio Grande do Norte, with the discovery of Pitu. It is noteworthy that the exploratory success can mean the change in the oil profile of the state, which today is the country’s largest onshore nucleus. There are currently 15 contracted blocks, more than half in the 2017 and 2018 rounds and three in the 11th round.

The exploratory area of ​​the Potiguar basin extends, in great part, by the coast of Ceará, which has its own Basin, with six other contracted blocks, five of them in the 11th round and one in the 15th round. Combined, the Potiguar and Ceará Basins stand out for the proliferation of operators: Ecopetrol, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Petrobras, Premier, Shell, Total and Wintershall.

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