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What Offshore Brazil Means to Petrobras and Its Partners

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Petrobras SA (NYSE: PBR  ) ¬†currently produces above 300,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, 43% in the Santos basin and 57% in the Campos basin. Petrobras achieved this level of production with only 17 wells in pre-salt basins located in offshore Brazil. Furthermore, about 96% of its total production is achieved in Brazil, and the company currently has 69 floating rigs for well construction and maintenance in the country.

Petrobras holds world-class assets with tremendous potential that will boost its operating income in the coming years. From January 2012 to February 2013, a hefty 53 discoveries were made of which 25 were offshore, including 15 in pre-salt basins. According to the producer, production of more than one million barrels per day should be reached by 2017, and over 2.1 Mmbbls/d could be reached by 2020 for its pre-salt assets.

Petrobras' prolific assets in the Santos Basin
Notably, Petrobras owns several wells in the Santos pre-salt basins. However, some are attracting more attention recently, such as the Sapinhoa asset which started producing in January 2013, expected to ultimately reach capacity of 120,000 Bbls/d. Moreover, its Lula asset had first oil in May 2013 and is expected to reach capacity of 120,000 Bbls/d as well. In late October, Petrobras was awarded the Libra field concession, an offshore asset that will be developed and operated for the next 35 years, with a consortium composed of four other partners. The Libra field, according to Brazil's National Petroleum Agency (ANP), could hold between 8 billion barrels and 12 billion barrels of recoverable reserves.

To add to its already great portfolio, Petrobras made an intriguing find in late September, along with its partner, a joint-venture between India's Bharat Petroleum and Videocon Industries (IBV). As a matter of fact, Petrobras stated that its SEAL-11 exploration block, assessed during this year's drilling program, could hold terrific amounts of high-quality light crude oil and natural gas. Notably, the field owned at 60% by the producer and 40% by IBV, is located about 62 miles off the Brazilian coast and may contain more than three billion barrels of oil in place. The find represents one of the largest discoveries of the year in the area, and the joint-venture could be sitting on a prolific petroleum gusher.

The competition
Involved in offshore Brazil for more than 20 years, Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A  ) also owns quality assets in pre-salt basins with Atlanta and Oliva fields located in the Santos basin and six more in the Campos basin. Shell started production last October, from its 50% working interest in Parque Das Conchas BC-10 field, with phase 2 of its venture.

The project is expected to produce about 35 Mboe/d when at full capacity. Shell also exercised preferential rights and projects to acquire an additional 23% working interest in the BC-10 property which should increase its stake to 73% by early 2014. Additionally, the international oil and gas producer joined the consortium with Petrobras in late October to develop and operate the very promising Libra field, in which Shell holds a 20% working interest.

Another great international producer is also making its presence felt in offshore Brazil. Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) , part of the same ventures as Shell in the Santos basin with the Atlanta and Oliva assets, holds working interests in three quality deepwater fields in the Campos basin: Frade, Papa-Terra, and Maromba.

The company owns 51.7% working interest in the Frade project, a field originally discovered in 1986 and located about 230 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro. Last year, net production averaged 6,000 Bbls/d of crude oil and 2 Mcf/d of natural gas.

As of November 12, 2013, the giant producer achieved first oil with its non-operated Papa-Terra field, a well that was assessed to produce at a daily capacity of 140,000 barrels of crude oil. Discovered in 2003, Papa-Terra is a heavy oil development on Block BC-20, located in the southern Campos basin about 70 miles southeast of Rio de Janeiro. Chevron holds 37.5% working interest in the project while Petrobras holds the remaining stake as well as being the operator. Finally, development of the Maromba field was assessed last year, and a development plan was submitted to authorities for regulatory approval. Chevron holds a 30% non-operated working interest in the Maromba venture.

My Foolish two cents
More and more major producers are attracted to the offshore Brazil area in recent years. As a matter of fact, Petrobras, with an extensive exploration and drilling program, acted as a true pioneer for almost three decades, and discovered in about 14 months no less than 15 commercially viable operating fields in the pre-salt basins.

With an abundant amount of reserves lying under the Brazilian presalt basins' sea floor, only a few producers such as Petrobras, Shell, and Chevron are well positioned and possess the necessary resources, as well as the expertise to unlock tremendous value for its shareholders. In conclusion, investors need to act quickly in order to get the most of this great opportunity. As the old saying goes, make hay while the sun shines.

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