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Pre-salt trio on drilling agenda for Petrobras

Brazilian giant sets out plans for three blocks in Campos basin, starting with Dois Irmaos

Brazil's Petrobras is preparing an ambitious exploration programme for a trio of pre-salt blocks acquired in recent rounds in the prolific Campos basin that could potentially unlock massive new hydrocarbons reserves.

Sources said Petrobras is working on exploration studies to tackle three prospects in the south-east part of the basin, with drilling tentatively scheduled to begin in 2020.

The programme, Upstream understands, will likely begin in the Dois Irmaos area, a production sharing contract acquired by Petrobras in the fourth pre-salt round a year ago with an uncontested bid worth 400 million reais ($103.6 million) and a minimum profit oil share of 16.43%.

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Market regulator ANP estimates Dois Irmaos has the potential to hold unrisked volumes of 2.4 billion barrels of oil in place.

Of the three mapped prospects in Dois Irmaos, sources said Petrobras will opt to drill the larger one — Pedra Branca — as part of its exploration commitment.

Situated in the centre of the Dois Irmaos area, Pedra Branca spans 137 square kilometres and may potentially hold 90% of the estimated resources in the block.

Pedra Branca also appears to be tempting from a geological standpoint, a source added, as the prospect has a relatively thin and more regularly laid salt layer compared to Pedra do Arpoador and Pedra Bonita, the other two pre-salt structures in the block.

Seismic surveys carried out in the area by CGG suggest large hydrocarbons deposits nestled at depths of between 4200 metres and 4900 metres.

Petrobras is understood to have no immediate drilling plans for Pedra do Arpoador and Pedra Bonita, but could test the two leads if results from Pedra Branca prove fruitful.

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Petrobras operates Dois Irmaos with a 45% stake and is partnered by UK supermajor BP on 30% and Norway’s Equinor on 25%.

The state-controlled company is also making plans with project partners ExxonMobil of the US and Equinor of Norway to drill a pair of wells in blocks C-M-657 and C-M-709.

Both permits were also grabbed last year by Petrobras in the country’s 15th licensing round and lie adjacent to Dois Irmaos to the east in ultra-deep waters close to 3000 metres.

Upstream was told that Petrobras is eyeing the drilling of the Naru prospect in C-M-657 and the Yba well in C-M-709.

Depending on how long the campaign in Dois Irmaos lasts, one source said Petrobras may only tackle Naru and Yba in 2021.

The idea is to probably use the same rig to drill Pedra Branca, Naru and Yba, although a final decision on the matter has yet to be made, added the source.

It is also unclear at this point if Petrobras will need to charter a rig or use one of its units on hire to run the programme.

Petrobras operates C-M-657 with a 30% stake. ExxonMobil and Equinor hold 40% and 30% interests, respectively.

On C-M-709, Petrobras is the operator with a 40% stake, with ExxonMobil on 40% and Equinor on 20%.

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