23 offshore exploratory wells in the process of licensing may make 2019 the best year since 2014

July 19, 2018

Four oil majors began licensing six drilling campaigns with Ibama in 2018. Campaigns are scheduled for the Campos, Santos and Foz do Amazonas Basins and are being requested by Shell, Petrobras, PetroRio and Equinor and can represent the drilling of up to 23 exploratory wells, which may make next year the best for drilling offshore since 2014.

Most of the exploratory well licensing is the result of last year’s oil auctions. The exception is the PetroRio campaign for five wells in Foz do Amazonas, in areas auctioned in the 11th round in 2013.

Since the government decided to resume auctions of exploratory blocks in the country, it has already been able to sell the concessions of 44 offshore exploration blocks. Nine of them in the production sharing regime. Another 35 blocks were auctioned by the oil companies in the 14th and 15th rounds in the concession areas.

Many of the areas that were tendered in the concession rounds, especially in the Sergipe-Alagoas, Potiguar and Ceará basins, are still far from environmental licensing for well drilling. They will still need the acquisition of seismic data to broaden the knowledge of the region.

In the Campos and Santos basins, where the geological knowledge and availability of recent seismic data is available, oil companies anticipate their licensing.

Alto de Cabo Frio Central

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.

The project’s Minimum Exploration Program provides for the drilling of an exploratory well by the end of the first half of 2019. The consortium is also proposing a training test contingent on the outcome of the well.

The first well of the project will be drilled in a water depth of 2,595 m at a distance of 166 km from the coast of Rio de Janeiro. The port of Rio and the airport of Cabo Frio will be used as logistical support base for the project.

 Shell in the Campos and Santos basins

Shell is licensing at Ibama 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 do Cabo Frio Oeste block, in the Santos Basin. The oil company signed last week the sharing of production contracts of the areas and began the licensing processes the next day. The company intends to start drilling campaigns in January 2019.

In the Alto Cabo Frio Oeste block, Shell is licensing the drilling of up to three exploratory wells. It will use a drill rig with dynamic positioning and two vessels of the PSV type, with a forecast of approximately 15 trips per month. The logistics base for primary support is not yet defined, but should be either the city of Rio de Janeiro or Niterói (RJ). The company can use for secondary support at Porto do Forno, in Arraial do Cabo (RJ); the Port of Açu, in São João da Barra (RJ) or Port of Vitória (ES).

Air support will be made at the airport of Jacarepaguá, in Rio de Janeiro (RJ), with the possibility of eventual use of the airports of Cabo Frio, Macaé or Campos.

The Alto Cabo Frio Oeste campaign should start in April 2019, and should last 120 days.

In the southern block of Gato do Mato, in the Santos Basin, which is a continuation to the south of block BM-S-54, two wells are being licensed with the main objective of acquiring additional information about the reservoir discovered in BM-S-54. A training test is also planned.

The logistical base for primary support to the activity is not yet defined, but – as in the Alto Cabo Frio Oeste campaign – most likely be Rio de Janeiro or Niterói (RJ). The drilling campaign is expected to start in January 2019, lasting 150 days.

Equinor exploration wells in North Carcará

Equinor began in April the environmental licensing of five wells in the pre-salt area of ​​the Norte de Carcará. The company is also licensing a short-term training test on the project. The campaign will use Brasco’s base in Niterói as logistical support.

The company has adopted the same strategy used by Shell to anticipate its licensing in production sharing projects before it even performs seismic in the area. Statoil received an environmental license from IBAMA for the drilling of up to seven wells in the exploratory block area BM-S-8, in the pre-salt of the Santos Basin. The license, which is valid for four years, also releases a short-term training test in an existing well. The first well of the project began to be drilled in February.

An agreement with Seadrill foresees the use of the West Saturn rig for drilling the well and conducting the test. Depending on the results, the company may exercise the option of using the rig to drill the remaining six wells.

This is the first drilling campaign released for Statoil in the pre-salt area. The Norwegian oil company bought in 2016 Petrobras’ stake in the project. In October last year, shortly after aquiring the North Block of Carcará, the consortium formed between Statoil, ExxonMobil and Galp reported a new corporate reorganization in the project.

Statoil, which acquired Petrobras’ 66% stake in BM-S-8 for $ 2.5 billion, sold half of that stake to ExxonMobil for $ 1.3 billion. In addition, it sold 3.5% and 3%, respectively, of the 10% portion that it bought from Queiroz Galvão E & P in the area to ExxonMobil and Galp, an operation that moved another US $ 250 million.

PetroRio in Foz do Amazonas

PetroRio has increased to five the number of wells it is licensing for drilling in the Foz do Amazonas Basin. The company began licensing up to two wells in the exploratory block area FZA-M-254, which is 350 km from the city of Macapá, in the state of Amapá, in a water depth ranging from 150 to 1600 m.

Like the FZA-M-539 block, where PetroRio intends to drill up to three exploration wells, the FZA-M-254 was acquired by the company in 2017 from the purchase of 100% of Brasoil. PetroRio is also licensing a campaign to acquire seismic data in the region.

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