Operations in the Pre-Salt

It all started with an idea of those who believed that there are no barriers, rather opportunities. We have an even better horizon ahead.

The discoveries made in the Pre-Salt raise us to a new level of reserves and oil production, ranking us in a prominent position among the major energy companies. To discover these reserves and operate efficiently in deep waters, we have developed our own technology and work in collaboration with suppliers, universities, and research centers. We hire drilling rigs, production platforms, ships, and submarines, with features that set the entire energy industry chain into motion.

For the pioneering technologies we have developed for the pre-salt, in 2015 we received, for the third time, the OTC Distinguished Achievement Award for Companies, Organizations, and Institutions, the biggest technological recognition an oil company could receive as an offshore operator.

Questions and answers about Pre-Salt

1. What is the pre-salt?

The expression "pre-salt" makes reference to an aggregation of rocks located offshore in a large portion of the Brazilian coast and with potential to generate and accumulate oil. It was called pre-salt because it forms a rock interval that ranges under an extensive layer of salt which, in certain areas of the coast, can be as much as 2,000 meters thick. The "pre" expression is used because, through time, these rocks were deposited before the salt layer. The total depth of these rocks, i.e., the distance between the surface of the sea and the oil reservoirs under the salt layer, can be as much as 7,000 meters.

Petrobras recently made the biggest oil discoveries in Brazil in the pre-salt layer located between the states of Santa Catarina and Espírito Santo, where major volumes of light oil were found. The oil that has already been found in the pre-salt layer in the Santos Basin, for example, has a specific gravity of 28.5o API, low acidity and low sulfur contents. These are the hallmarks of a high-quality oil with a higher market value.

2. What is the estimated volume of oil found in the pre-salt accumulations discovered thus far?

The first results indicate very large volumes. Just to have an idea, the Tupi accumulation alone, located in the Santos Basin, has recoverable volumes estimated at 5 to 8 billion barrels of oil equivalent (oil plus gas). Meanwhile, the Guará well, also in the Santos Basin, holds 1.1 to 2 billion barrels of light oil and natural gas, at a specific gravity of approximately 30o API.

3. Are the recent discoveries made in the pre-salt economically feasible?

Based on the results obtained from the wells that have been drilled and tested thus far, there is no doubt regarding the technical and economic feasibility of the commercial development of the accumulations that were found. The technical studies that have already been carried out for the development of the pre-salt, associated to the mobilization of specialized service and equipment resources and logistics, allow us to guarantee this venture will be successful. A few important stages in this process have already been overcome: in May 2009, Petrobras kicked-off the extended well test for the Tupi area, capable of processing some 30 barrels of oil per day. A month later, the Capuava Refinery (Recap), in São Paulo, processed the first volume of oil lifted from the Santos Basin's pre-salt layer. It is a historical milestone for the global oil industry.

4. How did this history of overcoming challenges begin?

In 2004, a few wells were drilled to look for oil in the Santos Basin. Drilling was done because known sandy rocks were found there, deposited in deep waters above the salt level. If oil were discovered, the idea was to drill deeper until reaching the pre-salt, where technicians believed major oil reservoirs would be found.

In 2006, when drilling had already reached a depth of 7,600 meters from the water line, a giant gas accumulation and reservoirs of oil condensate, a component of light oil, were found. That same year, in another drilling done in the Santos Basin, the Company and its partners made another discovery that would change the course of exploitation in Brazil for good. The great news came at a depth of a little more than 5,000 meters from the water line: signs of oil were found under the salt layer in the well currently known as Tupi. This success lead to the drilling of seven more wells, and oil was found in all of them. The investment paid off.

5. What changes for Petrobras with these results?

These discoveries will catapult the company, in the upcoming years, to a new oil reserve and production level, ranking it among the major operators. With the experience they have acquired developing fields nestled in deep Campos Basin waters, Petrobras' technicians are prepared to develop the accumulations discovered in the pre-salt. To this end, they are already adapting the technology and the logistics the company developed through the years.

6. Does the industry have installed capacity to meet these demands?

This is another major challenge: the good and service industry's installed capacity cannot meet the foreseen demands yet. On account of this, Petrobras will resort to a few competitive advantages that have already been identified to drive the development of the supply chain. Thanks to its leveraging capacity, due to the volume of purchases, the company can sign long-term agreements with its suppliers. This is quite a guarantee for a market that is currently in expansion. Additionally, it can anticipate agreements, provide support to strategic suppliers, raise funds, and attract new partners. All of this based on an aggressive tendering program designed to face the production challenges of the near future.

7. What are Petrobras' trumps to operate in the pre-salt area?

Firstly, the undeniable, world-renowned competence of its technical and managerial staff; the experience accumulated in the development of the reservoirs found in deep and ultra-deep waters in the other Brazilian basins; its logistics base installed in Brazil; its capability to articulate with good and service suppliers and with the academic area contributing with knowledge; and the great economic and technological interest this challenge arouses in the country's scientific and industrial community.