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Union claims IOCs pressuring Brazil legislators

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 12 -- Brazil’s largest union of oil workers, the Federacao Unica dos Petroleiros (FUP), claimed international oil companies are pressuring legislators to amend a bill that would extend special benefits to the country’s state-run Petroleo Brazileiro SA (Petrobras).

“There's a very strong presence of [IOC] lobbyists in the Chamber of Deputies (lower house), represented by the Brazilian Petroleum Institute,” said FUP general coordinator Joao Antonio de Moraes.

During an Oct. 8 hearing in the Brazilian Senate, de Moraes said a provision in a bill to ensure Petrobras has operatorship and a stake in each block of the presalt region is being “heavily attacked” by private oil companies.

De Moraes told legislators allowing IOCs to operate presalt projects would result in a loss of “exclusivity and control over the technology” needed to exploit the hard-to-reach deepwater deposits.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's government recently submitted a legislative proposal to change the current concession regime to a production-sharing system that would guarantee Petrobras as sole operator of all presalt deposits and provide it a minimum 30% stake.

Under the proposed legislation, other companies could partner with Petrobras and hold majority stakes in the joint ventures. But Petrobras, as operator, would control key decisions regarding development (OGJ, Sept. 14, 2009, p. 27).

In its monthly report, the International Energy Agency noted discussion of the proposed new regulations continue in Brazil's legislature, and future bidding rounds depend on their approval.

Brazil’s subsalt region is the most attractive new oil frontier in recent years among producers outside the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, IEA’s report said.

“New discoveries within Brazil's much-feted presalt (subsalt) deepwater offshore basin have come along recently with such regularity as to almost go unremarked,” the agency said. However, IEA revised down its forecasts for total Brazilian supply this year by 25,000 b/d to 2.51 million b/d, and in 2010 by 45,000 b/d to 2.75 million b/d.

Meanwhile, Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht Group secured a $1.5 billion loan for its two deepwater drilling vessels, Norbes VIII and Norbes IX. Odebrecht said it will invest a total $1.7 billion in the two vessels, which have 10-year drilling contracts with Petrobras and can drill in 3,000 m of water in the presalt regions.

In other news, Keppel Corp.’s offshore and marine unit Keppel FELS and its joint venture partner J. Ray McDermott signed a letter of intent with Petrobras and Chevron Corp. for an oil platform in Brazil. Keppel said the contract is expected to be signed "at a later date."

Keppel FELS and J. Ray McDermott formed the FloaTEC JV to bid for Petrobras’s P-61 oil platform contract with an estimated value of $1.07 billion.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.


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