RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil’s government raised on Wednesday 3.8 billion reais (some $1.2 billion) in an auction of oil and natural gas blocks located in deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean, officials said.
Despite the large amount the oil companies paid for the rights, the ANP oil regulator said it only received bids for 37 of the 287 blocks on offer Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro.
The auction was the first held by Brazil’s government since 2015 and involved blocks covering an area of 123,000 sq. kilometers (47,490 sq. miles).
The consortium made up of Brazilian state oil company Petrobras and American oil supermajor ExxonMobil won the rights to two blocks in the Campos basin off Brazil’s southeast coast with bids totaling 3.4 billion reais.
Petrobras-ExxonMobil paid 2.2 billion reais for one block in the Campos basin’s SC-AP3 sector and 1.2 billion reais for the other block.
Spanish oil major Repsol acquired a block in the Espirito Santo basin (southeast) for 23.1 million reais, while the China National Offshore Oil Corporation paid 23.5 million reais for the rights to another block in that same region.
In the Sergipe-Alagoas basin, a consortium made up of Murphy Oil Corporation, ExxonMobil and Brazil’s Queiroz Galvao acquired different blocks for 109.9 million reais.
In the Santos basin, Australia’s Karoon Gas acquired a block for 20 million reais.
Several non-governmental organizations and indigenous groups protested the auction, expressing their displeasure with the exploration of non-conventional gas reserves using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
Fracking is a controversial method that involves pumping a pressurized fluid – usually composed of water, sand and chemicals – into a shale formation to create a fracture in the rock layer and release trapped petroleum or natural gas.
Several demonstrators who tried to make their way inside the hotel auditorium where the auction was being held were stopped by Military Police officers.
In a statement, the ANP termed the auction a success and said it reflected legislative changes that had made Brazil more attractive to investors.
In a separate auction Wednesday, Brazil’s government offered the rights to operate four hydroelectric dams for 30 years. Those hydro plants had previously been operated by Companhia Energetica de Minas Gerais.
That auction at the Sao Paulo Stock Exchange raised 12.1 billion reais, with companies from China, Italy and France acquiring licenses.