Foz do Amazonas Basin has nearly 100 oil wells already drilled

(epbr) Despite Ibama’s veto of the environmental license for drilling a Petrobras well in deep waters in the Foz do Amazonas Basin this week, activities in the region are not unprecedented. According to public data from the National Petroleum Agency (ANP), Foz has already had 95 drillings — all have occurred in shallow waters.

Practically all the wells were abandoned, most of them because they did not find oil or because they found sub-commercial evidence or because of difficulties in exploratory logistics. There are still 27 cases of mechanical accidents.

The situation is repeated in the rest of the Equatorial Margin, which includes the basins of Foz do Amazonas, Barreirinhas, Ceará, Potiguar and Pará-Maranhão. Together, these basins have 813 wells.

There is also a high rate of need to abandon wells due to mechanical accidents in the region, with 102 drillings in this situation. Another 19 wells were abandoned for other reasons. Only 44 wells resulted in discoveries.

Exploration on the Equatorial Margin began 50 years ago

Activities on the Equatorial Margin began in the 1970s and intensified in the following decade. So far, most of the drilling has taken place in shallow water and has been done by Petrobras itself, but there have also been attempts by BP and Devon. Since 2015, no new drilling has taken place in this region.

One of the most recent cases of problems occurred in 2011 and was caused by problems with the rig with the current. The strength of sea currents and the possibility that spills could reach neighboring countries is one of the issues cited by Ibama to deny approval for Petrobras’ activity.

There are, however, success stories that also attract the eyes of companies to the region. This is the case of the discovery of Pitu, made by Petrobras in deep waters in the Potiguar Basin in 2013. The discovery is still in the evaluation phase, but Petrobras has already indicated that a new drilling in the vicinity is among the priorities after the first well in deep waters in Amapá, for which Ibama’s license was awaiting.

Currently 14 oil companies have concessions

Oil companies have historically faced difficulties in obtaining authorizations to drill in the Brazilian Equatorial Margin, due to the environmental sensitivity of the region, located on the coast of the North and Northeast of the country.

The Equatorial Margin is seen as a promising new exploratory frontier due to discoveries made in neighboring countries, such as Guyana and Suriname, and is one of the main bets for Brazil to replenish its reserves, with the expected decline of the pre-salt layer in the coming decades.

Currently, according to the National Petroleum Agency (ANP), there are 42 exploratory blocks under concession on the Equatorial Margin, with the participation of 14 different companies.

Petrobras wants to be the first to start exploration in deep waters in the region.

The 2023-2027 business plan, currently under review, provides for the drilling of 16 wells, with estimated investments of almost US$ 3 billion over five years on the Equatorial Margin.

Work would begin precisely with the drilling of the well on the coast of Amapá, whose licensing was blocked by Ibama.

Other companies have already given up drilling

In the last 10 years, at least three companies gave up exploring for oil and gas in Foz do Amazonas because of difficulties in obtaining environmental licensing. Ibama denied authorization for Petrobras to drill in the basin.

The areas were awarded in the 11th bidding round of the National Petroleum Agency (ANP), in 2013. At the time, 14 blocks were sold for a bonus of R$ 800 million and minimum exploratory programs of R$ 1.6 billion, in amounts of the time.

Since then, BHP, TotalEnergies and BP have given up exploring at Foz do Amazonas because of the difficulty of obtaining environmental licensing. Other concessionaires also returned auctioned blocks, such as OGX and Ecopetrol.

Currently, Enauta (FZA-M-90) and PetroRio (FZA-M-254 and FZA-M-539) operate concessions in Foz do Amazonas, contracted in the 11th round.

Petrobras has already spent half a billion and will appeal

After Ibama’s refusal, the oil company reported that it will keep the rig and its resources mobilized for drilling the FZA-M-59, in the Foz do Amazonas Basin, until May 29.

The company appealed against Ibama’s decision and said it will wait 10 days for a response before demobilizing.

Petrobras spends BRL 3.4 million per day with the drilling unit and other equipment and services stopped at the site. Since December, when the rig arrived at Foz, it has already spent more than R$500 million.

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