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Petrobras expects Brazil's deepwater pre-salt play to remain competitive to shale

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Future breakeven costs expected to be $35/boe

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Brazil will drive the biggest non-OPEC oil output growth after Permian

Houston — Continued technological improvements along high-productivity pre-salt reservoirs will allow Brazil's state-led oil company Petrobras to remain competitive with shale oil plays, a company executive said Monday at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.

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"Projects in Brazilian deepwater plays have become more competitive, and we are doing very well compared with any other deepwater and even tight oil play," Rudimar Andres Lorenzatto, Petrobras' Chief Technology Officer, said.

The projected breakeven cost for Brazil's pre-salt deepwater projects is expected to be in the range of $35-$40/boe by 2030, Lorenzatto said, citing data from energy consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie. Petrobras' future lifting, or production, cost is expected to fall to $7/boe, he added.

Related story: Brazil's Petrobras to sell stake in Argentinian natural gas processing unit MEGA

S&P Global Platts Analytics forecasts that Brazil's total crude oil production will reach 3.68 million b/d by 2030 from 2.58 million b/d in 2018.

WoodMac has said Brazil would be responsible for the largest growth in crude oil production outside OPEC countries and the Permian shale basin.

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Lorenzatto indicated that this would come about due to a combination of regulatory improvements, tax changes, and other development enhancements, including technology, standardization, scalability. This has allowed Petrobras to cut prices in the ramp up phases at the Lula field by 40% since 2014, he added.

According to WoodMac, breakeven costs at Petrobras' pre-salt Lula field sit currently at $38/b today compared with $69/b in 2014.

Lula is a leading indicator of Brazil's future as it was the first field to come online in the Santos Basin pre-salt cluster.

Lula is Brazil's biggest oil and gas field, producing 909,235 b/d and 38 million cu m/d in March, according to the country's upstream regulator, Agencia Nacional de Petroleo.

In another key project, Petrobras was able to cut drilling times at the Buzios field to 126 days in 2018, half the time recorded at other pre-salt projects in 2014, he added.

Petrobras was able to cut output costs despite the sharp fall in oil prices in recent years, which forced the company to cut its annual capital expenditure budget to $13 billion in 2018, 64% less compared with 2014, he added.

Opportunities to continue cutting costs are ample: from well design, subsea infrastructure to floating production and offshore (FPSO) loading topside construction, Lorenzatto said.

Some of the technologies Petrobras is developing include subsea CO2 separation units, digital analytics, and heat well plugging, he added.

Going forward, Petrobras expects to invest $69 billion over the coming five years, building 11 new FPSOs with a combined capacity for around 1.4 million b/d.

This will allow Petrobras to growth its hydrocarbon production by 5% annually over the next five year, Lorenzetto said. Based on this forecast, the company's output should reach 3.57 million boe/d from 2.8 million boe/d in 2018.

Today, the company has 49 deepwater production units online, producing 2.1 million b/d today. Over the last year, the company began operating seven units, producing a combined 400,000 b/d for Petrobras share, he added.

Over the coming five years, Petrobras will drill 95 new exploratory wells. Since 2017, Petrobras has won 21 new offshore blocks in the pre-salt areas in partnership Equinor, BP, Shell, ExxonMobil among others, paying over $6 billion in signing bonuses for these areas.

-- Daniel Rodriguez, daniel.rodriguez@spglobal.com

-- Edited by James Bambino, newsdesk@spglobal.com