Brazilian state-owned oil and gas giant Petrobras is planning to kick off a drilling program in the Potiguar Basin on Brazil’s Equatorial Margin upon the arrival of a rig, after getting its hands on an environmental license from the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA).
Petrobras is committed to the development of the Brazilian Equatorial Margin, as it recognizes the importance of new frontiers to ensure the country’s energy security and the resources needed for a just energy transition and low-carbon economy. The Potiguar Basin, which covers maritime portions of the states of Rio Grande do Norte and Ceará, is part of the so-called Brazilian Equatorial Margin, which stretches between the states of Amapá and Rio Grande do Norte.
The company highlights that this region is considered to be “one of the world’s newest and most promising frontiers” in deep and ultra-deep waters. Recent discoveries announced in regions adjacent to these frontiers, especially in neighboring Guyana and Suriname, indicate significant oil production potential for the Brazilian Equatorial Margin.
While looking for new hydrocarbon sources in addition to the pre-salt to supply the country’s future demand for oil, the Brazilian giant set the wheels into motion to obtain a drilling license in the Potiguar Basin, as planned in its Strategic Plan 2023-27, as well as the execution of exploration projects planned in Brazil and abroad.
New two-well drilling program
As a result of these efforts, Petrobras received an environmental license from IBAMA to drill two exploratory wells in the maritime block BM-POT-17 in the deep waters of the Potiguar Basin. The first well will be drilled 52 km off the coast. The Brazilian player confirms that the drilling activities are scheduled to begin in the next few weeks once the rig arrives at the location.
With the exploratory survey, the firm intends to obtain more geological information about the area to assess the economic feasibility and extent of the oil discovery made in 2013 at the Pitu well, where there is no oil production at this stage. To ensure it can glean more insight into the area, Petrobras has complied with all the requirements and procedures requested by IBAMA, in compliance with the rigor that this type of environmental licensing demands.
During the last stage of the assessment – between September 18 and 20 – the company carried out an on-site simulation, called the pre-operational assessment (APO), through which IBAMA confirmed the firm’s ability to respond to an accidental event involving an oil spill. Petrobras underscores that it is prepared to operate in the region with the strictest safety standards and emergency response plans.
In the Equatorial Margin, there are four Environmental Defense Centers (CDAs), located in Pará, Maranhão, Ceará, and Rio Grande do Norte; in addition to nine other CDAs, advanced bases, and emergency response centers, distributed throughout the rest of Brazil. The Brazilian giant is adamant that all these structures are equipped for “a prompt response” in the event of accidental events involving oil spills at sea.
The project to evaluate the Pitu discovery is included in Petrobras’ current Strategic Plan for the period between 2023 and 2027. The firm intends to drill 16 exploratory wells in the Equatorial Margin over five years. The investment planned for the region is around $3 billion, directed towards research projects and investigating the region’s oil potential.
The steps Petrobras is taking are in line with the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME)’s program – unveiled in March 2023 – to boost investments in oil and natural gas exploration in a bid to promote regional development and foster national production while turning Brazil into the fourth largest oil producer in the world.