Friday, May 1st 2009 - 12:53 UTC

Brazil’s pre-salt basin oil extraction becomes commercial operation

Petrobras, Brazil’s state-managed oil company will begin Friday to extract oil from the off-shore pre-salt Tupi field and is “very secure” about production expectations, said Guilherme Estrella, head of exploration and production.

Petrobras has reopened its first well in the Tupi field and found a strong flow, Estrella told reporters in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday. The Iracema well, which is 30 kilometres north of the first well and is part of the same structure, helps to confirm the Tupi field reserves, he said.

Tupi, whose discovery was announced in November 2007, contains an estimated 5 billion to 8 billion barrels of oil, making it the largest discovery in the Americas in three decades. Eight billion barrels is enough to supply all US needs for more than a year.

“This is of course a test” Estrella said. “The mapping is extensive and the results confirm our estimates”. The Iracema well is helping define the limits of the Tupi oil deposit, he said.

Tupi is in the Santos Basin pre-salt region of Brazil. It sits in waters more than 2,000 meters deep and beneath another 5,000 meters of rock and salt under the seabed. The pre-salt region runs about 800 kilometres off the coast of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Petrobras is “re-testing” wells it previously considered dry or not containing commercially viable oil, Estrella said. The company may also drill them deeper to see if they contain oil at pre-salt levels, Estrella said.

Production ships in Campos Basin, the source of 85% of Brazil’s oil, and fields such as Marlim, Brazil’s biggest producing area, may extend their lives by drilling wells deeper to new resources below a layer of salt in the same region, he said.

The official development of the Tupi field on Friday is scheduled with two ceremonies, one held on board platform vessel FPSO BW Cidade de São Vicente in the morning, and the other at Marina da Glória (Rio de Janeiro), in the afternoon.

Petrobras president and CEO, José Sergio Gabrielli, company directors, and representatives of the partner companies in the exploratory block (BG and Galp Energia) will attend the event at sea. President Lula da Silva will participate in the event at Marina da Glória.

Cidade de São Vicente, which will operate in the Extended Well Test (EWT) for Tupi, is capable of processing 30,000 barrels of oil per day and will be anchored in ultra-deep waters (2,140 meters from the water line), 270 kilometres off-shore.

The test, slated to last 15 months, will collect technical information for the development of the reservoirs the company discovered in the Santos Basin. The information is considered decisive not only to define the development model to be used in the Tupi area, but also for other pre-salt accumulations located in the sedimentary basin.

In late 2010, after the EWT is completed, the Tupi Pilot Project will go online. It will be capable of producing and processing 100,000 barrels of oil and 4 million cubic meters of gas per day. The first definitive module for the area’s development project may be an extension of the pilot project.

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