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Petrobras Discovers World’s Third-Largest Oil Field

Joe Carroll and Carlos Caminada, Bloomberg
Petroleo Brasileiro SA’s offshore Carioca prospect may hold 33 billion barrels of oil, enough to supply every refinery in the U.S. for six years, making it the third-largest oil field ever discovered.

Additional wells must be drilled to develop a “more conclusive” estimate, the Rio de Janeiro-based company said in an e-mailed statement. Only Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar and Kuwait’s Burgan fields are bigger: Ghawar holds as much as 83 billion barrels of crude, while Burgan has up to 72 billion.

… The Carioca field, also known as BM-S-9, is located beneath a layer of salt in the deepwater Santos Basin off Brazil’s southeastern coast, where Petrobras in November announced the discovery of the 8 billion-barrel Tupi field.

… Haroldo Lima, director of Brazil’s National Oil Agency, disclosed the 33 billion-barrel estimate at a seminar in Rio de Janeiro and said no official information is available yet.

… Carioca remained hidden from explorers until recently because energy companies lacked the technology to assess prospects obscured by undersea salt formations.

“Salt is difficult to see through for a geologist because salt absorbs seismic energy,” Gibson said in an interview today. “Also, a decade ago the physical technology didn’t exist that would even enable you to drill in water that deep.”

Petrobras recently created a division to coordinate all exploration projects off the southeast coast, given its potentially large reserves.

“We haven’t seen any discoveries that large in decades because we’ve punched enough holes in the Earth that we already know where most of the big fields are,” said Gibson, president of Butte, Montana-based Gibson Consulting.
(14 April 2008)
Brazil Oil Field Could Be Huge Find (AP)
Brazil finds new oil field, possibly among biggest in the world (AFP)

Contributor Al Polito writes:
This could delay peak oil for several years, and I wonder if it will or could alter Brazil’s plans to become the world’s leading biofuel producer.

Contributor Thomas Christiansen writes:
If true, this is good news. However, by the time it is developed, it will only marginally improve the world liquids decline rate.

UPDATE (Apr 15). Dave Cohen of ASPO-USA writes:
Regarding the Carioca field offshore Brazil —

It is completely irresponsible for anyone to whisper to the world that there are 33 billion barrels of — what? oil-in-place? barrels of oil equivalent? technically recoverable oil? economically recoverable oil? — in the Carioca offshore block BM-S-9.

Brazil has drilled a single test well at BM-S-9, which achieved a good flow as discussed in Rigzone’s BG Participates in New Oil Discovery Offshore Brazil (September, 2007)

This very deep “pre-salt” field will yield its bounty reluctantly, no matter what the estimated recoverable oil turns out to be. (And remember, you always need to know how an estimate was calculated.)

There is no basis at this time for the “33 billion” barrels. Why not 43? Why not 53? The one thing we know for sure at this point is that the leaked number has been very good for BG, Repsol and Petrabras share prices.

UPATE #2 (Apr 15)
Contributor Tony writes:
As David Cohen has pointed out, this is not a confirmed discovery and I understand that Petrobras have even issued a denial of the story. However, I was interested in Al Polito’s comment that a 33 billion barrel field could delay peak for a few years. This doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Firstly, we’d have to assume that this 33 billion is all recoverable, then we’d have to assume that it is extra to the future discoveries already factored into the peak date calculation. We’d also have to assume the that the production flow rates would be comparable with current conventional fields and that the field would be developed before peak. However, even those assumptions wouldn’t account for peak being delayed by a few years. Adding 33 billion barrels adds about 16 billion to the half-way point (which is when fields generally start to decline). 16 billion represents about 6 months consumption. So peak would be delayed by about 6 months at best.

Contributor 2themacs writes:
I want to thank you for your recent post on the Brazilian oil field discovery. Specifically, I’m appreciative of the comments of various experts. I’ve been following Peak Oil for just around a year and I’m always annoyed when there is nothing to put stories in context. This is what I value from your website over others: I always get context.

Russian Oil Slump Stirs Supply Jitters

Guy Chazan and Neil King Jr., Wall Street Journal
Production Decline
Is First in 10 Years;
Squeeze in Siberia

Russian oil production, for years a vital source of new supplies for world markets, is showing signs of a slump, adding to uncertainties that have helped push oil prices to record highs.

Russian output fell for the first time in a decade in the first three months of this year, according to the International Energy Agency, which represents industrialized oil-consuming countries. It said Russian production averaged about 10 million barrels a day, a 1% drop from the first-quarter of 2007.

Declining production from the world’s largest oil producer and one of its largest exporters puts further pressures on an already strained market and adds to the potential for higher prices for a global economy coping with a slowdown. Global production constraints — along with surging demand, rising oil-field expenses and political instability in petroleum-rich regions — already have sent oil to more than $110 a barrel from $30 in about four years.

… Russia’s stumbling production growth highlights a troubling reality: Despite soaring oil prices in the past five years, crude output from nations outside the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries has remained essentially flat since 2005, defying the normal link between high prices and increased production.
(15 April 2008)
Related at Financial Times: Fears emerge over Russia’s oil output
Noted by Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly: Peak Oil Watch.

Bakken no energy panacea

Tyler Hamilton, The Star (Canada)
Those who deny that peak oil is a near-term problem can be so predictable. Hours after the U.S. Geological Survey released its study Thursday showing that the Bakken oil formation has up to 4.3 billion barrels of “technically recoverable oil,” the emails started trickling in.

There’s plenty of oil out there.

We just have to keep looking.

Peak oil is a scam.

The U.S. government’s press release did look impressive, mind you. The Bakken Formation, a 40,000 square kilometre territory reaching into Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Montana, and North Dakota, showed a “25-fold increase in the amount of oil that can be recovered,” at least compared to 1995 estimates.

A 25-fold increase? That’s huge – or so it sounds.

But then you start comparing numbers. Assuming all 4.3 billion barrels could be retrieved, it would represent nine months of oil consumption in the United States.

Canada’s oil sands hold about 177 billion barrels, and Saudi Arabia has an estimated 250 billion barrels, if you can believe the numbers.

Now, let’s consider the nature of the Bakken oil. It doesn’t sit in big underground pools where you can just pop in a metal straw and suck it out. This oil is trapped in layers of shale – a sedimentary rock – up to 3,000 metres deep. Getting at it is expensive and difficult, and certainly damaging to the surrounding landscape and environment.
(14 April 2008)