Posted by: kenwbudd | December 7, 2009

Brazil starts exploitation of major oil reserves

A welder on the job in the shipyard of Angra Dos Reis, Brazil, where workers are building enormous oil platforms that will feature 14,000-ton decks the size of football fields.

Once the offshore pools of oil are tapped, Brazil’s proven oil reserves are expected to double. (Juan Forero/the Washington Post)

The challenge facing Brazil’s state-controlled energy company, Petrobras is huge: developing a group of newly discovered deep-sea oil fields that will catapult this country into the ranks of the world’s petro-powers.

The oil pools are 200 miles out in the Atlantic and more than four miles down, under freezing seas, rock and a heavy cap of salt.

Petrobras has launched a five-year, $174 billion project to provide platforms, rigs, support vessels and drilling systems to develop tens of billions of barrels of oil. Energy officials here project that Brazil, over the next decade, will have one of the world’s biggest oil reserves.

“It’s going to change the role of Brazil in the geopolitics of oil,” Petrobras’s president, José Sergio Gabrielli, said in an interview at the company’s headquarters in Rio de Janeiro. “We are going to become a much bigger producer.”

Petrobras estimates that production in Brazil could reach 3.9 million barrels by 2020, up from more than 2 million a day now. Proven oil reserves would rise from 14.4 billion barrels to more than 30 billion barrels, according to government estimates, putting Brazil in the same league as such major oil exporters as Qatar, Canada, Kazakhstan and Nigeria.

The new discoveries in Brazil’s offshore “pre-salt” region do not mean that the country will become a major exporter of crude, according to Gabrielli. He noted that Brazil’s economy, which is the world’s eighth-largest and is steadily growing, is expected to consume much of Petrobras’s projected production.

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