Brazil’s state-controlled energy giant, Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras), has received a crucial permit from Brazil’s top environmental agency, Ibama, to explore the potentially lucrative Potiguar basin in the country’s northeast region. The development comes after months of negotiation and deliberation between Petrobras and the regulatory body.
The Potiguar basin, located within the Equatorial Margin, is one of five promising offshore regions that Petrobras aims to investigate as part of its strategy to expand oil production in Brazil.
Following the approval to research the Potiguar basin, Mines and Energy Minister Alexandre Silveira noted that technicians would now be able to make headway in studying the necessary conditions for exploration in the Foz do Amazonas basin. According to Petrobras’ studies, block FZA-M-59 alone holds the potential for an estimated 5.6 billion barrels of oil reserves, he said.
Petrobras is set to commence drilling operations in the Potiguar basin next month once a suitable drilling rig arrives at the designated location. The primary objective of this research endeavour is to assess the economic feasibility and the extent of oil reserves in the area, following the initial oil discovery made in 2013 at the Pitu well. However, it is important to note that this phase does not involve oil production.
The company anticipates receiving official clearance from Ibama to initiate drilling activities in the maritime block BM-POT-17, which is situated in deep waters, with the first exploratory well planned to be drilled 52 kilometres (32 miles) off the coast.
Petrobras has also demonstrated its commitment to environmental safety by conducting a simulated response to a potential oil spill earlier this month.
Petrobras said it views the Equatorial Margin as a significant opportunity for oil exploration in Brazil, likening its potential reserves to the multibillion-barrel discoveries being developed by ExxonMobil in neighbouring Guyana.
Earlier this year, Petrobras faced a setback when Ibama blocked its plans to drill in block FZA-M-59 within the Foz do Amazonas basin, citing social and environmental concerns. In response, Petrobras chose to seek a license for exploration in the Potiguar Basin as an alternative while awaiting the outcome of an appeal for the Foz do Amazonas project.