Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Less than a month after oil production began at one of the world's larger fields, French supermajor Total said it was investing more in offshore Brazil.
Total said it was making decision to invest in a large-scale development phase for the Libra oil prospect located in the deep waters of the Santos basin offshore Brazil. The project includes a floating production platform that has a capacity for 150,000 barrels per day from 17 wells.
Arnaud Breuillac, the head of exploration and production for Total, said this marks a major step forward in Brazilian operations, where technical costs are less than $20 per barrel of oil.
"This proves that we are capable of developing competitive deep offshore projects," he said in a statement. "Following startup of the early production system in November, this investment decision further strengthens our portfolio of projects under construction and feeds our production growth post-2020."
Production at Libra started in April with the floating Pioneiro de Libra facility, which has a capacity of 50,000 bpd. The new Mero-1 floating facility outlined in Total's investment decision should start production in 2021.
Brazil ranks second behind Venezuela in terms of proven oil reserves in South America. Libra alone holds between 8 billion and 12 billion barrels of recoverable reserves.
Much of the oil from the offshore Santos basin is buried underneath a thick layer of salt on the ocean floor and producers have been able to crack into that in recent years. Output from pre-salt basins has accelerated since 2009 as exploration and production technology acclimates to the region's tough conditions.
In December, the French company moved deeper into Brazilian waters in a $2.2 billion deal with state-supported Petroleo Brasileiro, known more commonly as Petrobras. Both sides already work together on assets in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico and in the giant Libra oil field.
Three more facilities of its kind could lead to production from the Libra field of more than 600,000 bpd.