MIAMI, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Brazil's energy fortunes appear to keep growing with the discovery of a new gas field right next door to a bounty of undersea oil found last year, officials at state-run Petrobras announced this week.
Officials said the exact amount of natural gas contained in the Jupiter gas field offshore Rio de Janeiro remains unknown. However, it is estimated to be about the same size as the Tupi oil field found in November.
That field is believed to contain between 5 billion and 8 billion barrels of light crude. At the time, Petrobras officials said the oil field could make Brazil one of the world's top oil suppliers, catapulting it into among the Top 10 exporters; some experts warned, however, the oil could potentially be difficult to reach, as it is beneath thousands of feet of water, bedrock and salt.
Speaking about the latest discovery, Brazilian energy officials expressed hope they could one day become self-sufficient in meeting domestic natural gas needs. Brazil imports about half of its natural gas for domestic consumption from neighboring Bolivia.
"If this field has the gas that Petrobras believes it does, then it will make Brazil self-sufficient in natural gas," Guilherme Estrella, Petrobras production and exploration director, said Tuesday during a news conference.
News of the discovery, in part, prompted Brazil's stock exchange to jump 4.45 percent Tuesday and sent the country's main stock index, the Bovespa, toward its biggest single-day gains in 10 months.
The find follows the announcement in 2006 that Brazil became a net exporter of oil after decades of dependence. Brazil still imports light crude for use domestically, however.
Brazil experienced a record year in petroleum production in 2006 with Petrobras reporting record-high oil processing levels in its refineries. The company reported that a total of 1.784 million barrels per day were processed in Brazilian refineries in 2006, a 1.5 percent increase from 2005 production levels.
It said the increase was the result of improved production and supply-chain management, ranging from raw-material flow to the delivery of oil derivatives to customers.
Petrobras also noted earlier this year it was in the final stage of construction and installation of its $900 million P-54 platform, one of the world's largest, with a production capacity of 180,000 bpd and capable of compressing 6 million cubic meters of natural gas per day.
The P-54 will be installed in the Roncador field, in Campos Basin, Rio de Janeiro, not far from the Tupi and Sugar Loaf basins.
Brazil's recent good fortune in the oil business could mean a much higher profile for a country that considers itself the de facto leader in the region.
"If it (Sugar Loaf) is proven to be as big as everyone says, it would definitely put Brazil among the biggest in the global oil market," noted Roger Tissot, an analyst with PFC Energy.
But Tissot and other analysts cautioned against getting overly excited about the output from any of Brazil's newly discovered oil and gas deposits.
"I don't think it's going to revolutionize the energy picture (in Latin America), at least not in the next decade," said Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.