SPECIAL REPORT: ANALYSIS OF BRAZIL’S O&G SECTOR: All-in for the Brazilian oil and gas industry

In November 2007 Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras, shocked the E&P world by announcing a 5-to-8-Bbbl discovery in a completely unknown geological play: carbonate reservoirs below a 2-km layer of salt, offshore Brazil, in a 2,000-m water depth. This announcement marked the beginning of a complete turnaround in the history of Brazil’s oil and gas (O&G) industry—“the pre salt era,” Fig. 1.

Fig. 1. Current geological models define the pre-salt as an 800-km by 200-km area that extends from mid-south Brazil to mid-north southeastern Brazil. Map: Petrobras.

Fig. 1. Current geological models define the pre-salt as an 800-km by 200-km area that extends from mid-south Brazil to mid-north southeastern Brazil. Map: Petrobras.

Technology enables exploration. This discovery resulted from more than 15 years of amazing achievements carried out by Petrobras’ Research & Development Center (CENPES), mostly in geology, geophysics, and drilling technologies. It took six years for Petrobras to hit the first “jackpot” after acquiring offshore exploratory acreage in an open bidding round during 2000. This is understandable, given that since the Brazilian Petroleum Law of 1997, the Petrobras monopoly in the O&G sector ceased to exist, in the entire value chain (note: distribution and retail sale of oil products have never been a monopolistic activity in Brazil).

Technologies needed to map potential pre-salt fields have been developed since the 1990s in CENPES. The exploratory acreage, where the pre-salt fields were discovered from 2006 onwards, was acquired in bidding rounds during 2000 and 2001, and promoted by Brazilian regulatory agency ANP, which was created within the context of the new Petroleum Law. And after this first jackpot in 2006, Petrobras intensified its exploratory activity in the area, and it had almost 100% success—for every well drilled, a new prospect was uncovered.

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