Petrobras stands by LNG plan despite huge oil find

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Petrobras Chief Executive Jose Sergio Gabrielli told the LNG Journal at the World Energy Congress in Rome that the company’s two planned offshore regasification plants would proceed as scheduled.

The Brazilian company only announced its plans to enter the LNG business earlier this year when it signed an $860 million deal with Golar LNG, which has offices in London and Bermuda, to charter two converted carriers to use as offshore regasification terminals.

Petrobras has also agreed to buy spot LNG cargoes from Nigeria and Algeria, as well as from the Franco-Belgian energy company Suez.

“The company's investment plan until 2012 remains unchanged,” said Gabrielli. “Our market in natural gas is around 42 million cubic metres per day. We have natural gas imports of 30 million cubic metres per day provided under contract with Bolivia, and we have the two regasification facilities planned.”

Gabrielli declined to say whether Petrobras had plans to become an LNG producer, as one of its partners in the oil and gas find is BG Group of the UK.

BG is a key player in the global LNG market, with production, marketing and regasification capacity agreements worldwide.

While Brazilian politicians are already talking about joining the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries oil cartel, Gabrielli said that was “a matter for the government and not for Petrobras as a company. Governments join OPEC and not companies."

Brazil's current power supply comes 90 percent from hydro-electric plants and the LNG imports would be to make up any shortfalls during the dry season in Brazil from May to October when hydro-electric power supply is short as water levels in rivers drop.

However, the South American country’s oil windfall, as well as substanial potential gas revenues, would not be available for some years to come and only after massive investment.

“The first well took more than a year and cost $240 million to be drilled, the latest well was down in cost to $60M,” Gabrielli said.

The current Petrobras investment plan – excluding new oil ventures – is for more than $22 billion to be spent on supplying about 70 million cubic metres per day of domestically produced gas by 2010, to import the equivalent of 20 million cubic meters per day of LNG by 2009, in addition to maintaining natural gas imports from Bolivia.

The Petrobras oil find, known as Tupi and located about 150 miles offshore Rio, was described at the energy conference in Rome as “a new frontier comparable to the most important oil provinces in the world.”

The volume that was discovered in the Tupi accumulation alone, which represents but a small part of the “new frontier,” may boost Brazil’s current 14-billion-barrel oil and gas reserves by more than 50 percent, the company said.

To date, Petrobras is the only company, with the operator status, with or without partnerships, that has drilled, tested, and evaluated pre-salt rocks.

Petrobras analyzed and tested the Tupi area. The formation tests analyses undertaken for the second well in the BM-S-11 block, located in the Santos basin, allows the recoverable volume of 28º API light oil to be estimated at 5 billion to 8 billion barrels of oil and natural gas.

Petrobras is the area’s operator and holds 65 percent of the working interest, while BG holds 25 percent, and Portuguese energy company Petrogal holds 10 percent.

With $1-billion in investments made over the past couple of years, the 15 wells were drilled and reached the pre-salt layers, eight of which duly tested and evaluated based on the best oil industry techniques, Petrobras said.

Petrobras said it developed new drilling projects to reach the pre-salt layers, at depths of 5,000 to 7,000 metres and more than 2,000 metres of salt have already been crossed.