New Petrobras oil reserve could reach 2.1 billion bbl, up 23.5%

Peter Howard Wertheim
OGJ Correspondent

Rio de Janeiro, June 6 -- State-owned oil giant Petroleos Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) announced four new important oil field discoveries on BC-60 Block in the northern Campos Basin off Espírito Santo state. According to Petrobras, the block is becoming Brazil's most prolific exploration area and has been dubbed "Parque das Baleias," or whale park. Petrobras holds 100% interest in the block.

Besides the oil discovery made with well 1BRSA121ESS, announced last May, with estimated reserves of about 630 million bbl, three other wells were recently completed in the area.

Including these latest discoveries, Petrobras has reported a total of 17 oil finds on Block BC-60. These discoveries have added 2.1 billion bbl. to Brazil's proven reserves of 8.9 billion bbl, or up 23.5%, the company said.

Other locations
These new oil accumulations are near the recently discovered Jubarte and Cachalote fields, which lie in 1,473-1,535 m of water. Preliminary studies show an estimated 500 million bbl of oil reserves are contained in these fields, Petrobras said.

Oil from Cachalote and Jubarte fields is heavy, 20º gravity crude. Pilot production from Jubarte field has reached 20,000 b/d of oil.

"The BC-60 block is expected to produce 250,0000 b/d of crude oil in a conservative estimate," said Guilherme Estrella, Petrobras exploration and production director. "In around 1 year, the technical evaluation of the new wells will be completed in order to set up a production project and we expect that oil will start flowing in three to four years," he added. Petrobras said that two new platforms, processing 180,000 b/d of crude, will be needed to exploit the area.

BC-60 Block is among those that Petrobras was granted concession in the so-called Round 0 held in 1998, organized by Brazil's National Petroleum Agency (ANP). Petrobras is planning to drill four more wells on BC-60 up through the end of August when the deadline for returning areas to ANP expires. According to the rules of the auction, companies that were granted concessions in 1998 will have to return to ANP the areas where there were no discoveries.

João Carlos de Luca, a former Petrobras exploration and production director and president of Brazil's subsidiary of Repsol-YPF SA, said that he expects "many new discoveries in Campos basin" and called the coast of Espirito Santo state a "new frontier oil province."

Thus far, major discoveries have taken place in the Campos basin off Rio de Janeiro state. The basin is responsible for some 80% of Brazil's output of 1.6 million b/d of oil.

BHP Billiton report
The only post-1997 discoveries that appear to be truly commercial are the ones made by Petrobras on "Blue Block" BC-60 and by Royal Dutch/Shell Group, Petrobras, and ExxonMobil Corp. on BC-10, one of the original Round 0 blocks, says a report by Ronald B. Meers and Peter E. Gale of BHP Billiton presented to an Association of American Geologists (AAPG) meeting in March.

Roughly 13 billion bbl of oil and oil-equivalent gas have been discovered in Brazil's southeast Atlantic margin basins, with the overwhelming majority coming from ten fields in a 12,000 sq km area in the central Campos basin. Many in industry have speculated that this "sweet spot" is not an anomaly, and that others will be found along trend in the neighboring Espirito Santo and Santos basins, the report added.

The components of the Lagoa Feia-Carapebus petroleum system, responsible for a large part of these world-class accumulations, can be mapped with some degree of confidence across a large portion of the southeast basins. The presalt rift section (containing the Lagoa Feia formation) is, in many places, well imaged on seismic data with anomalously thick areas comparable to the central Campos.

This potential source rock distribution, coupled with maturation models and kitchen maps, highlights large areas that could be conducive to hydrocarbon generation and expulsion.

Salt welds exist in many areas creating avenues for migration from the source to the overlying reservoir section. Additionally, this salt movement has provided paths for deepwater reservoir transport and deposition as well as creating geometries favorable for both structural and stratigraphic trap development, the report said.

Heavy investments
As a result of the distribution of these regional petroleum system elements in the southeast basins, industry has invested heavily since 1998, including an estimate of more than $200 million in Round 0 farmout bonuses, about $632 million in lease bonuses (from the first to the fourth bid rounds organized by the ANP), and an estimated $500 million in exploratory well drilling (not including Petrobras's 100% activities on their Blue Blocks).

Based on data provided by 36 private oil companies working in Brazil, ANP undertook a preliminary study that estimate investments of at least $15.3 billion in exploration of oil and gas during the period 2003-06. For development and production the ANP estimates investments of $13.8 billion for the same period.

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