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Brazil has a 'North Sea of oil'

July 15, 2011 at 1:15 PM   |   Comments

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, July 15 (UPI) -- Brazil's offshore southern Atlantic oil fields are potentially the "same size of the North Sea," a Brazilian oil executive said.

Britain and Norway held about 62 billion barrels of reserves in the North Sea before the deposits were developed, Francisco Nepomuceno Filho, Petrobras London head of exploration and production, said during an interview.

"Brazil as a whole could have a potential of the same size of the North Sea, including Norway and the U.K.," Filho told Mercopress. "Those two countries grew a lot and had huge development."

Filho's company Petroleo Brasileiro S.A., more familiarly known as Petrobras, is Brazil's most important energy concern and the nation's largest company.

Filho said Petrobras, which has headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, is also preparing to test a recent discovery well in northeastern Brazil's offshore Sergipe Basin, an area that may be a "new oil province," adding that this year Petrobras will reach its target of 2.1 million barrels a day of oil production in Brazil, approaching OPEC member Iraq's production of 2.7 million bpd.

Petrobras is revising its $224 billion, five-year investment plan and the company's board may approve it on July 22, Filho said. However, he didn't provide details of the investment plan's potential revisions.

Petrobras Chief Financial Officer Almir Barbassa said the company is seeking to borrow about $47 billion by 2014 both to finance investments and refinance existing debt.

Brazil earlier made substantial undersea oil discoveries off its Atlantic coastline, including the Tupi oil field discovered in 2007, with estimated reserves of 33 billion barrels, and the Jupiter oilfield discovered in 2008 with 12 billion barrels.

Those estimates raised Brazil's share to 5 percent of Latin America's known reserves.

Latin American oil production is very uneven, with Venezuela, Mexico and Brazil jointly responsible for 80 percent of the region's total production. Earlier this year Brazil became a net exporter of oil.

Petrobras is resting its hopes on the giant Lula/Cernambi offshore field, which is estimated to hold a total of between 7 billion-11 billion barrels of recoverable reserves. More than 3 miles below the Atlantic waters, Lula/Cernambi has been called the Western Hemisphere's biggest oil discovery in the last 30 years.

The problems of extracting the oil however remain daunting. Quite aside from the issues of depth, the field's oil lies beneath "pre-salt" reservoirs, which require expensive and advanced technology to exploit. Petrobras senior engineer Humberto Americano Romanus said, "The challenges to develop this area are very big."

The Brazilian government nevertheless remains optimistic, with President Dilma Rousseff saying that the oil wealth from the offshore fields could prove to be a "passport to the future."

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