Peak Oil News: Brazil's giant offshore oil discoveries

Monday, November 07, 2005

Brazil's giant offshore oil discoveries


By Jerome Corsi

A key argument of "Peak-Oil" and "Fossil-Fuel" theorists is no new giant oilfield discoveries have been made in recent years. Oil "experts" such as Matt Simmons and Ken Deffeyes are locked into the belief that oil is a fossil fuel, and pretty soon we are bound to have found and drilled all the oil that ever was. What about Brazil?

The experience of Brazil's offshore drilling is proving that giant new oil fields are out there, waiting to be discovered, just off shore along the continental shelf. Petrobras, Brazil's largest oil company is moving Brazil from being nearly 100 percent dependent on foreign oil imports only some 50 years ago, toward becoming a net oil exporter in the next few years. How? Brazil has realized spectacular results by developing the technology to drill ultra-deep offshore wells in Brazil's Barracuda and Caratingua oil fields, in the Campos Basin some 50 miles into the Atlantic Ocean east of Rio de Janeiro.

To develop the oil resources of the Campos Basin, Petrobras formed the Barracuda & Caratingua Leasing Company B.V. as a special purpose corporation established in the Netherlands. In December 2004, BCLC finalized an $2.5 billion agreement with Halliburton's Kellogg Brown & Root subsidiary, awarding KBR a full engineering, procurement, installation and construction contract for 55 offshore wells in the two oil fields (22 horizontal producers and two multilateral horizontal producers, as well as eight horizontal injectors and eight piggyback injectors).

The contract also specified the construction and installation of two FPSO (floating, production, storage, offloading) vessels. According to, the Barracuda and Caratingua fields are expected to add 30 percent to the current 1 million barrels per day of production from the Campos Basin region. The two fields cover a combined area of 230 square kilometers (approximately 145 square miles). Photographs of the massive Barracuda FPSO and the P-48 Platform Topsides are posted and technically described on

According to, the Barracuda and Caratingua proven oil reserves are estimated at 1.229 billion barrels. Together they are expected to produce 773 million barrels of oil by 2025. Petrobras has taken the additional step of contracting international oil consultants DeGolyer and MacNaughton to validate proven reserve estimates.

According to Energy Information Administration estimates, Brazil in 2004 produced 1.8 million barrels of oil per day, almost all of which was from offshore drilling in the Campos Basin (which includes the giant oil fields of Barracuda, Caratingua, and Merlim Sul) and the Santos Basin. Brazil's oil production has grown at a rate of about 9 percent per year since 1980.

With the country consuming 2.2 million barrels per day, Brazil is about to become oil independent. By the end of this decade, Brazil expects to become a net oil exporter. Brazil's offshore drilling success represents a complete turn-around – in 1953, Brazil domestic oil production filled only 3 percent of domestic demand.

None of this will impress peak-oil or fossil-fuel theorists, who expectedly will argue that the Brazil's offshore oil fields, regardless how large they might be, are doomed to deplete sooner or later. Petrobras has a different vision. If giant oil fields can be found 50 miles offshore Brazil, how many more giant offshore oil fields remain to be discovered?

Today, Petrobras is one of the world's leaders in developing offshore technology capable of drilling the ocean floor under some two miles of water. Petrobras enjoys considerable international prestige with its ultra-deepwater technology. The company has expanded its offshore presence in the Gulf of Mexico and off the West Coast of Africa. Petrobras is contemplating developing new offshore projects in the Caribbean, in the waters offshore Cuba.

The geological description of the Campos Basin suggests that the rock formations in which oil is being found are in Upper Oligocene to Lower Micocene deposits – in other words, deposits from the Cenozoic Era, dating back only some 24,000 years. Dinosaurs dominated in the prior Mesozoic Era which stretches back 250 million years ago and end some 65 million years ago. The oil-rich deposits in the Campos Field stretch back at most some 20 thousands of years, not millions. This should rule out that any dead dinosaurs or decaying ancient forests formed the oil found off Brazil's shore. Dinosaurs supposed died out in the Crataceous Period at the end of the Mesozoic Era, just before the Cenozoic Era began.

Moreover, the oil-rich deposits are typically described as "turbidite," a sedimentary deposit that typically consists of material that has moved down a steep slope at the edge of the continental shelf. The oil-rich sediments are mostly sand and mud. The technical descriptions of the oil-rich rock in the Campos Basin strongly suggest that the deposits flowed from the continent and settled on the ocean floor.

The biotic content of the rock is found to contain "benthic foraminifera," little shell creatures that like to live on the ocean bottom. The rock itself is described as having been formed in "bathyal" conditions, a term typically reserved to describe the ocean floor from half a mile to about two miles down. The geological descriptions suggest no findings of animal fossils or ancient flora debris.

While the geology suggests the Campos Basin oil-rich deposits formed when the sea level was lower than today, the deposits suggest that the area was most probably still underwater when the sand and mud deposits flowed into the area.

With the geological description of the rock, "Fossil-Fuel" theorists are going to have a hard time positing that ancient dinosaurs and decaying prehistoric flora were the cause of the oil. The geological description sounds like the area was already well underwater when mud and sand run-off from the shore deposited sediment. The abiotic theory of oil seems more consistent with the geology, arguing that this type of deposit was sufficiently porous for upward-seeping hydrocarbons naturally formed in the Earth's mantle to pool in reservoirs.

What is clear from reading the technical discussions from Petrobras oil engineers is that they are far more interested in the 3D seismic studies of the Campos Field oil reservoirs and 4D seismic analyses (taking into account time period analysis) than they are in debating about whether the oil came from decaying dinosaurs and ancient trees.

When Petrobras CEO Jose Eduardo Durta presented the company's Strategic Plan out to year 2015 to a group of investors in New York on May 20, 2004, he was looking to expand the company's expertise in deep and ultra-deep waters beyond the continental shelf off Brazil. Mr. Durta looked to strong expansion for Petrobras in this oil market niche, and he said not a word about whether or not dinosaurs had ever roamed a square foot of the ocean bottoms he planned to explore.

Looking at the experience of Petrobras in Brazil, we are led to wonder why the United States is leading in ultra-deep oil operations. Few countries in the world have the extensive offshore territory enjoyed by the United States. Why aren't we resolved to become oil independent by exploring offshore oil with the aggressive resolve demonstrated by Petrobras?

Our problem seems to be that the current coalition of radical environmentalists, "Peak-Oil" and "Fossil-Fuel" pessimists, and the political Left are unwilling to step down their rhetoric long enough to look rationally at some real world empirical results.


At 5:39 PM, November 07, 2005, Anonymous duran said...

This article states that Brazil uses 2.2 MB/Day.
The USA uses over 12 MB/Day last I checked.
The world in total uses 80 MB/Day last I checked.

If Brazil is suddenly able to produce another 1 or 2 MB/Day we're still in need of a massive amount of Oil per day to replace the slowing production rates of the Saudi fields.

Oh, and then theres the issue of the ever accelerating demands on oil production in the ever increasingly demanding economies of the world.

Brazil, even if they have found a very large source of oil, doesn't do much for the rest of world demand.

Now to speak towards the question of abiotic oil...
The issue at hand is that oil, as a resource, results in massive political instability in the world, as the haves fight over the resources of the have-nots. Through history we as humans have fought over resources to supply our cultures and economies.

Oil as our primary source of energy to fuel our needs as a developing culture, no matter if its abiotic, or biotic, is a finite resource that WILL run out. it is in our best interest, as a whole race to move to an energy source that is plentiful, and doesn't require the imperial ascendance of one nation over another.

The current and past wars in the middle east are examples of the cruelty that we as a race are able to inflict in the selfish exploitation of the world for our own needs.

The energy issue is not an issue of what we use to power our tv's... its an issue of how we treat the whole world and all the people in it.

At 7:31 PM, November 07, 2005, Anonymous Iowan said...

The guy who wrote Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry and Atomic Iran: How the Terrorist Regime Bought the Bomb and American Politicians has absolutely no credibilty with me. But then, neither does WordlNetDaily.

At 6:30 AM, November 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One does not make a point by vilifying another person with a point. It is a kind of low blow.

Brazil is no better or worse a prospect than any of a dozen other good prospecting targets globally. Of course the world will run out of petroleum (in effect) by virtue of it becoming too expensive to bother with. The producable half-way point will arrive within 25 years in all probability.

It is already evident that duran's comment is getting real close to the center of this issue. World powers have squandered their own and other people's petroleum resources for a hundred years, caused war and murderous instability in non-industrial societies, lied and cheated behind veils of civility and devotion. We know this. The culprits are so cynical about democracy and justice that they rarely deny any of their atrocities - they largely don't think the public cares or has the literacy and moral fibre to push back.

That is the reason why we must be careful to focus out wrath on the right targets. A dishonest and destructive person with great power and no capacity for empathy is greatly comforted with the knowledge that significant numbers of the "dumb and indifferent public" are occupying themselves with a nonsense subject or a wild conspiracy theory.

If you want to get the last word - to recapture your birthright and live out your days as a contributor instead of a user, use the levers of democracy and free enterprise. Vote with your political franchise to rid yourelves of liars. Vote with your resources to eliminate waste.

There are two sides to any market - supply and demand. I recently disposed of a Mercedes in favour of a TDI volkswagen. I get nearly 60 mpg (US gallons) with cheaper fuel versus under 20 mpg with top-cost fuel. We keep our thermostat at 62 degrees F and close off parts of buildings that we are not using. Our heating bill runs under half that commonly paid by others who have half the space under heating. There are many examples of this in everyone's life in North America.

What would happen to this market situation if everyone suddenly started to give a damn?

At 12:44 PM, November 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This guy says that oligocene/miocene deposits date back 24,000 years. I guess he never took an intro to Geology course in college (or even high school). These epochs were millions of years ago, not thousands. If you are going to claim to be an authority, at least try to understand the most rudimentary facts surrounding the science.

At 7:00 PM, November 08, 2005, Blogger ginckgo said...

Abiotic? Get your facts straight before writing this rubbish.
1. "Upper Oligocene to Lower Miocene" (rather than Micocene) is a stretch of time between 28 and 16 MILLION years ago. So major error just there.
2. Nobody suggests that Dinosaurs are a source of any fossil fuel. All such deposits originate from plant and microfossil remains - animals are too sparce and aren't made of the right materials.
3. Most oil source rocks are marine, ie they were deposited on the sea floor. Actually being under water is essential for such source rocks to form and the organic matter to be preserved. Terrestrial deposits from trees usually form coal and rarely produce any liquid hydrocarbons.
So there is NO conflict with traditional hydrocarbon origin theory. From the little info that can be found, all the "abiotic" oil supposedly found in Russia can either be explained by migration from traditional source rocks, contamination from the drilling oil, or it's so small as to be insignificant.
I some ways Peak Oil would be a good way to meet Kyoto Treaty targets anyway :)

At 1:16 PM, November 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not only is the abiotic oil argument in this article lacking in rigour, but his suggestion that this is a "giant" field is outright wrong. Typically, a giant field is considered to have a minimum of over a billion bbl total reserves. The combined totals for both of his fields is just over a billion. Further, his projected production of 300,000 bbl per day would put them in the middle range of production.


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