Rio de Janeiro — Brazil's crude oil and natural gas production bounced back in October, as a long-term well test at the Mero Field was restarted, but output remained below the record levels seen in August, the country's National Petroleum Agency, or ANP, said Monday.
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Oil companies operating in Brazil pumped an average of 2.964 million b/d of oil and condensate in October, an increase of 1.3% from 2.927 million b/d in September, the ANP said. October's production was also up a more-robust 13.4% from 2.614 million b/d in October 2018, the ANP said.
October's advance was attributed to the restart of a long-term well test at the Mero production-sharing field in Brazil's subsalt region, the ANP data showed. Brazilian state-led oil company Petrobras and its partners developing the field shut down the FPSO Pioneiro de Libra floating production, storage and offloading vessel in September to connect a different well to the production unit as part of ongoing reservoir tests at the field.
The FPSO Pioneiro de Libra has installed capacity to pump about 50,000 b/d during the test. Mero produced 42,861 b/d and 2.98 million cu m/d in October, according to the ANP.
Mero is part of the Libra production-sharing area, which was the first subsalt field sold under the regulatory regime in 2013. Petrobras owns a 40% operating stake in the field, with Shell and France's Total each retaining 20% minority stakes. China's CNPC and CNOOC also each hold 10% shares.
Output from Brazil's subsalt region has surged in recent months as Petrobras and its partners ramp up production from an unprecedented eight new FPSOs installed since early 2018. Each of the new FPSOs has installed capacity to produce at least 150,000 b/d and process up to 6 million cu m/d, according to Petrobras. Additional growth is expected through the end of 2019 as new wells are connected to the installed FPSOs, including the FPSO P-68 that pumped first oil from the Berbigao Field in the transfer-of-rights area in early November.
The new FPSOs pushed Brazil's oil output to a record 2.989 million b/d in August, according to the ANP.
Carlos Alberto Pereira de Oliveira, who is Petrobras' director for exploration and production, said in late October that Petrobras expects production to average about 2.9 million b/d of oil equivalent through the end of 2019 and into early 2020.
OUTPUT GROWTH STABILIZING
While the overall outlook for Brazilian production remains bright, output growth is expected to stabilize next year, according to Petrobras' 2020-2024 investment plan released last week. Petrobras set 2020 production targets of 2.2 million b/d and 2.7 million boe/d, unchanged from this year, amid expectations for a heavier schedule of planned maintenance shutdowns at subsalt fields, declines at mature fields and sales of fields currently in production.
Petrobras is the leading subsalt stakeholder and Brazil's top oil and gas producer, accounting for 2.196 million b/d and 94.8 million cu m/d in October, according to the ANP. Shell was second at 375,638 b/d and 15.2 million cu m/d, while Portugal's Galp Energia was third at 102,751 b/d and 4.39 million cu m/d.
The Lula Field, which was the first of the major Santos Basin subsalt fields to enter production in 2010, was the country's biggest oil and gas producer in October, the ANP said. Lula produced 1.022 million b/d and 43.0 million cu m/d in October, according to the ANP. Buzios, which pumped first oil in April 2018, was second at 307,649 b/d and 11.43 million cu m/d, while Sapinhoa produced 246,270 b/d and 10.44 million cu m/d, the ANP said.
The three subsalt fields combined to account for about 53% of Brazil's total output in October, underscoring the region's massive potential.
Brazil's subsalt fields produced 1.905 million b/d and 77.64 million cu m/d from 111 wells in October, up from 1.827 million b/d and 73.4 million cu m/d from 110 wells in September, the ANP said. Total hydrocarbons output also advanced to 2.394 million boe/d in October versus 2.289 million boe/d in September, the ANP said.
LACK OF NATURAL GAS INFRASTRUCTURE
Natural gas output also rebounded in October but still remained below the record levels seen in August, the ANP said. Brazil produced 131.6 million cu m/d in October, up from 128.9 million cu m/d in September, the ANP said. Brazil produced a record 133.3 million cu m/d in August. October's gas output was also up sharply from 117.0 million cu m/d in October 2018, according to the ANP.
About one-third of the gas produced, however, is reinjected back into reservoirs because of the country's lack of offshore export infrastructure, including most of the gas from major subsalt fields. Brazil currently has two offshore export pipelines, with a third expected to come onstream in 2021. But installed capacity of 48 million cu m/d is expected to be saturated by the mid-2020s, meaning new pipelines will need to be built in order to bring the gas to market.
The lack of export infrastructure acts as an effective cap on oil output, with subsalt fields often containing gas-to-oil ratios of 40% or more.
Brazil's total hydrocarbons output advanced 1.4% to 3.792 million boe/d in October, up from 3.738 million boe/d in September, the ANP said. That remained below the record of 3.828 million boe/d set in August. October's oil and gas output was also 13.2% higher than the 3.350 million boe/d registered in October 2018, according to the ANP.
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-- Edited by Jeff Mower, email@example.com