Without the pressure to search for reserves abroad, Petrobras will increasingly concentrate on adding value through domestic development. In an exclusive interview, Jorge Zelada, director of the international area of Petrobras, talked about this change in goals.

In late July 2011, Petrobas released its 2011-2015 business plan, listing total energy investments at US $224.7 billion. This is the largest business plan in the oil and gas industry and represents the largest investment by a single company. Of this total, $127.5 billion (57%) will go to E&P activities, up from $118.8 billion (53%) allocated in the 2010-2014 plan. An unprecedented 87% of the E&P budget will go to developing the enormous presalt fields offshore Brazil.

"In 2010 Petrobras invested $2.2 billion in international business," said Petrobras International Director Jorge Zelada. This was a substantial drop from the previous year.

"In 2009 Petrobras invested $3.79 billion abroad, achieving 99% of forecasted targets and finished the year producing approximately 250,000 b/d. The objective is to reach 341,000 b/d in 2013 and 632,000 b/d by 2020. The maturity of the portfolio and the projects makes this predictability possible," he said.

Jorge Zelada is director of Petrobras’ international business area. (Image courtesy of Petrobras News Agency)

Estimates for presalt reserves, most of which are in deep water, range from 50 to100 Bbbl. Although the company's experience in deep water previously led it to pursue deepwater prospects abroad, the focus on presalt developments has turned its sights inward.

"Four years ago, our posture was to take our knowledge and expertise overseas," Zelada said. "Today, with all of the presalt demand and with everything happening overseas, the resources that we need here could be otherwise occupied. And these are often critical resources, such as drill rigs and even personnel."

Petrobras' focus clearly has changed. "Today perhaps it is better not to look for the same kind of technological challenges overseas, but deal with others that do not compete with the activities in Brazil," Zelada said.

Petrobras abroad

In 2010, Petrobras drilled 11 exploratory wells outside of Brazil, most of which were offshore West Africa. Today, approximately 75% of the company's international resources are headed for West Africa, the Gulf of Mexico (GoM), and Latin America.

In the US GoM, Petrobras recently set an industry milestone. On March 17, 2011, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) granted Petrobras a permit to operate the BW Pioneer floating, production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) vessel in US waters, the first such permit in the GoM. Currently, Petrobras has an interest in nine producing GoM blocks. The greatest promise is expected from the Cascade, Chinook, St. Malo, and Stone fields.

In South America, Petrobras holds interests in 75 E&P contracts, with the greatest concentration onshore Argentina and Colombia. Petrobras international also works in Bolivia, producing gas from the San Alberto and San Antonio fields. In Peru, the company is producing 16,000 b/d from Lot X in the Talara basin and has a stake in three other basins. In Uruguay, Petrobras participates in two blocks and in Venezuela holds minority stakes in four mixed companies for E&P activities in partnership with Petr?leos de Venezuela. The company holds 21 exploratory blocks in Colombia, including the Guando field, which holds 126 MMbbl in recoverable reserves.

Africa holds particular promise, Zelada said. "Petrobras expects to find more reserves of light oil offshore, similar to those discovered on the African continent, in line with the corporate strategy of seeking opportunities in deep and ultra-deep waters in the region. We have already established operations in Nigeria, Angola, Tanzania, Namibia, and Libya."

In February 2011, Petrobras added to its West Africa assets, acquiring a 50% interest in Block 4 offshore Benin from Lusitania Petroleum subsidiary Compagnie B?ninoise des Hydrocarbures (CBH). The block covers approximately 7,400 sq km (2,960 sq miles) in 200 to 3,000 m (655 ft to 10,000 ft) water depth. CBH operates the asset; however, Petrobras has the right to take over the operation. The work commitment includes a 2,250-sq-km (900-sq-mile) 3-D survey this year. Once the exploratory potential of the area is confirmed, the consortium plans to drill three wells. The company also is present in Australia, New Zealand, and India and operates four blocks offshore Portugal: Camar?o, Am?ijoa, Mexilh?o, and Ostra.

Petrobras generates only 6% of its daily production from international projects in the GoM, West Africa, South America, and offshore Australia, however. The benefit of such international ventures is realized in the geological and technical knowledge gained from its partnerships with other companies, Zelada said. :