Petrobras begins commercial production at pre-salt field

Oct 28, 2010 12:00 AM

State-owned energy company Petrobras began commercial production at one of the most important fields in the offshore, ultra-deep “pre-salt” cluster, a massive new oil frontier that promises to transform Brazil into one of the world’s leading crude exporters.

The Cidade de Angra dos Reis FPSO platform ship, moored at a water depth of 2,150 meters (7,050 feet), began operating at the Tupi field in a ceremony headed by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. “Brazil is celebrating today because this marks the beginning of a new era for our country,” Lula, who was wearing a Petrobras orange jumpsuit, said. “The pre-salt is such an extraordinary opportunity for Brazil that I didn’t want my term to end without coming here,” Lula, who will step down on Jan. 1 after eight years in office, said of his 300-km (185-mile) helicopter ride to the platform.

Commercial production at Tupi began a week after Petrobras confirmed in a ninth well test that the field -- discovered in October 2006 and regarded as the biggest oil find in three decades -- holds between 5 bn and 8 bn barrels of oil equivalent. The ultra-deep Tupi field is part of the BM-S-11 concession area, which is held by a consortium led and operated by Petrobras, with a 65 % stake; the other partners in the block are Britain’s BG Group, with a 25 % interest; and Portugal’s Galp Energia, 10 %.

BM-S-11, which also includes another large accumulation, the Iara field, is one of several blocks already awarded in the pre-salt cluster, so-named because the estimated 80 bn barrels of oil equivalent that area may contain are located deep below the ocean floor under a layer of salt up to 2 km (1.2 miles) thick.Located in a 160,000-sq-km (62,000 sq-mile) area, the pre-salt finds could lead to a nearly six-fold increase in Brazil’s current proven reserves of 14 bn barrels and transform the South American nation into a major oil exporter.

The Cidade de Angra dos Reis platform was initially connected to a test well that has been in operation since April 2009 and produced a total of 7 mm barrels. The test well will remain in operation until December, when Tupi is expected to be declared commercially viable.

The consortium that owns the BM-S-11 block expects that Tupi will reach maximum daily capacity of 100,000 barrels of oil and 5 mm cm (176.2 mm cf) of natural gas once the Cidade de Angra dos Reis platform is connected to six productive wells in 2013. Petrobras says the oil extracted by the platform ship will be transported to land by tankers, while the gas, separated from crude by the FPSO, will be used to generate electricity or sent by gas pipeline to another platform.

The energy company, meanwhile, is building a floating natural gas treatment unit capable of liquefying the fuel at sea prior to export. The platform, which has capacity to store 2 mm barrels of crude, is 330 meters (1,080 feet) in length and 19 meters in width and can accommodate 100 crew members.

Petrobras, which operates in 28 countries on 5 continents, is the world’s second-largest oil company by market capitalization after carrying out a massive share offering in recent weeks.

Brazil’s largest company and one of the world’s fastest-growing oil firms in recent years, Petrobras produces an average of roughly 2.5 mm bpd of oil and natural gas equivalent at its domestic and foreign fields.

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