Sept 3, 2020
Total started a new environmental licensing process for drilling seven exploratory wells in the area of blocks FZA-M-57, FZA-M-86, FZAM-88, FZA-M-125 and FZA-M-127, in the Basin of Foz do Amazonas. The company was forced to restart the licensing of the projects after the environmental agency dismissed, in April last year, the reconsideration request to renew the first licensing process.
In December 2018, Ibama rejected an appeal filed by Total against a decision that rejected the drilling license. The technical opinion on Total’s license application indicated “deep uncertainties” related to the project’s Individual Emergency Plan.
The environmental agency at the time said that the company was unable to prove that offshore drilling would have technical and operational safety.
“In view of the various opportunities that have already been given to the company for complementation and the magnitude of technical deficiencies present in the process, there is no way to accept the appeal filed”, pointed out Ibama’s president, Suely Araújo, in order nº 4072539/2018-GABIN, in December 2018.
Total operates five blocks in Foz do Amazonas and initially planned to drill nine wells in the basin. In all, the oil companies that bought blocks in Foz do Amazonas in the 11th round of the ANP, held in 2013, foresee the drilling of 12 wells in the region. In addition to Total, BP and Enauta license projects in the area.
BHP gave up areas
Licensing in Foz do Amazonas became a legal issue and the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office in Amapá recommended that Ibama deny the license for drilling because it considers the Environmental Impact Study carried out in the region insufficient.
In the meantime, mining company BHP gave up the concession of two exploratory areas that it had acquired in Foz do Amazonas. The company returned to the ANP the concession of the exploratory blocks FZA-M-257 and FZA-M-324, in shallow waters of Foz do Amazonas, which totaled more than R $ 30 million.
BP has already drilled in Foz
A month earlier, Ibama once again asked BP to supplement information on its study of the impact of offshore drilling activities in Block FZA-M-59, in the Foz do Amazonas Basin. In a technical opinion on the study presented by the company, the environmental agency concluded that “additional information and clarifications are still needed to support the activity licensing process”
The company tried to suspend the concession contract with the ANP, but ended up having the request denied by the agency in May last year. The directors of the regulatory agency at the time understood, however, that the term restitution was due and the end of the first exploratory period in the area was postponed from August 6, 2019 to May 31, 2021. The second period passed from August 6, 2022 to May 31, 2023.
ANP’s public data indicates that 95 exploratory wells have already been drilled in the Foz do Amazonas Basin, 91 of which were made by Petrobras, three by BP and one by Exxon. The exploratory campaign in the region began in the 1960s, with a peak between the 1970s and 1982, including the discovery of sub-commercial accumulations of natural gas in the Pirapema area and in the area of well 1 APS 51A AP, in addition to the discovery of 10 wells with evidence of hydrocarbons.
BP has already drilled wells in the region. Between 1999 and 2005, it made three exploratory wells in the region of the deep water blocks BFZ-2 and BM-FZA-1. The drilled wells were located in water depths that varied between 800 and 1600 meters approximately, being located about 500 km north of Belém do Pará. In one of them, well 1-BP-2-APS, was found evidence of oil and gas.
Exploration projects in Foz do Amazonas are facing strong resistance from environmentalists and a large demand for data and information from Ibama. Licensing is accompanied by environmental preservation organizations, including Greenpeace, due to the discovery of an area – at least 9.5 km2 – dominated by a rare coral reef, capable of surviving in the murky waters of the Amazon. The NGO is carrying out a mobilization campaign against oil exploration in the region entitled “defend the corals of the Amazon.
Areas withdrawn from the auction
The National Energy Policy Council (CNPE) withdrew from the 15th bidding round, which was held in 2018, the exploratory blocks that would be offered in the Foz do Amazonas Basin. The decision was taken to resolve the environmental licensing issue for drilling wells in the region.