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Brazil's Petrobras starts binding talks in first phase of refinery sales

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Platts Bunkerwire

Brazil's Petrobras starts binding talks in first phase of refinery sales

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Petrobras seeks binding offers for four major refineries

Binding phase for four additional refineries to start later

Deals would end monopoly; slash control to about 50%

Rio de Janeiro — Brazilian state-led oil company Petrobras started the binding phase of negotiations to sell four of the company's 13 refineries amid efforts to slash by half its monopoly over the country's downstream sector, the company said Friday.

"The potential buyers qualified for this phase will receive invitations with detailed instructions about the divestment process, including directions about how to carry out due diligence and how to send binding proposals," Petrobras said.

Petrobras agreed to sell eight refineries representing about half of Brazil's 2.1 million b/d in refining capacity earlier this year under an agreement with CADE, the Justice Ministry's antitrust division. The first non-binding offers were received earlier in November.

Petrobras plans to complete the refinery divestments by the end of 2020, part of a broader plan to sell $26.9 billion worth of assets in 2019-2024. The company is ending monopoly positions in refining and natural gas as well as exiting other industries such as biofuels, fertilizers, and fuels distribution under a plan that the government expects to increase competition and lure fresh investors to Latin America's largest economy.

More than 20 companies, including oil and gas producers, distributors, trading companies, and investment funds, signed confidentiality agreements with Petrobras to study the sales, Petrobras officials said in late October. The refinery sales are expected to outpace the $13 billion generated by the sale of Petrobras' 90% stakes in natural gas pipeline networks Transportadora Asociada de Gas and Nova Transportadora do Sudeste, according to analysts.

The refineries were expected to attract interest from Asian investors, especially China, according to industry sources. Chinese state oil company CNPC and Petrobras remain in talks about a potential partnership to complete work on the 165,000 b/d Complexo Petroquimico do Rio de Janeiro refinery. Petrobras officials also said in 2018 that CNPC could potentially end up taking a stake in several refineries in the country's southeast region as part of a larger deal that would reposition the company's refining portfolio under the previous divestment program.

But Petrobras has said that it plans to maintain control of refinery operations in Brazil's southeast, where the country's industrial and agricultural heartland is located. That includes refineries in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo states.

The antitrust agreement includes restrictions on potential buyers that prohibits investors from consolidating regional positions and creating monopolies, according to the sale tenders.


The first phase of refinery sales includes the 115,000 b/d Refinaria do Nordeste, also known as RNEST or Abreu e Lima, in Ipojuca, Pernambuco state; the 376,650 b/d Refinaria Landulpho Alves, or RLAM, in Mataripe, Bahia state; the 208,990 b/d Refinaria Presidente Getulio Vargas, or REPAR, in Araucaria, Parana state; and the 189,600 b/d Refinaria Alberto Pasqualini, or REFAP, in Canoas, Rio Grande do Sul state.

RNEST accounts for about 5% of Brazil's refining capacity and could easily double in size to about 260,000 b/d by completion of a second refining train at the plant, Petrobras said. Construction on the line was halted in 2015 amid a corruption scandal, but could be completed by new investors. The RNEST sale also includes a storage terminal and 101 kilometers of pipelines, Petrobras said.

RLAM is one of Brazil's biggest refineries and provides refined products for much of the country's northeast region, accounting for about 14% of the country's transformation capacity, according to Petrobras. The sale includes four storage terminals and 669 km of pipelines, Petrobras said.

REPAR includes five storage terminals and a package of oil pipelines totaling 476 km, Petrobras said. REFAP meanwhile, includes two storage terminals and about 260 km of pipelines, according to Petrobras. The two refineries each account for about 9% of Brazil's refining capacity.

The second phase includes the 5,880 mt/d Unidade de Industrializacao do Xisto, or SIX, shale-and-bitumen processing facility in Sao Mateus do Sul, Parana; the 144,800 b/d Refinaria Gabriel Passos, or REGAP, in Betim, Minas Gerais; the 43,970 b/d Refinaria Isaac Sabba, or REMAN, in Manaus, Amazonas; and Lubrificantes e Derivados de Petroleo do Nordeste, or LUBNOR, which processes 8,000 b/d in Fortaleza, Ceara.

The binding phase for the second round of refinery sales is expected to start in late 2019 or in early 2020, according to the company.

--Jeff Fick, newsdesk@spglobal.com

--Edited by Valarie Jackson, valarie.jackson@spglobal.com