COARI, Brazil – State oil company Petrobras has faced a unique challenge in developing the Urucu oil field in northern Brazil over the past 30 years, seeking to develop crude reserves in a hard-to-access area of the Amazon while also protecting that region’s delicate ecosystem and biodiversity.
Urucu, where Petrobras produces 40,449 barrels of crude and 14.1 million cubic meters of natural gas per day, based on annualized figures as of October, is the largest onshore field in Brazil.
One of the biggest challenges of the field, which occupies a 332-sq.-kilometer (128-sq.-mile) area, equal to roughly 30,000 soccer fields, is transporting the hydrocarbons to different distribution points, an effort carried out through pipelines and boats that travel along the Solimoes River, a tributary of the Amazon.
The construction of natural gas and crude pipelines, despite their high cost, has reduced the possibility of an environmental disaster to a minimum by eliminating much of the need for river transport.
Shipping the hydrocarbons exclusively by boat to Manaus “posed a great risk of environmental disaster, and so in both the medium and long term the investment was worthwhile,” the operations manager of the Pedro de Moura Geological Operations Base at Urucu, John Roberto Rodrigues, told EFE.
Petrobras also has carried out other projects to reduce the environmental impact of its operations in that remote region, including investing in projects to restore flora in deforested areas and to establish tree nurseries to grow native plants.
“A delineation study of the area to be developed was conducted and an inventory was carried out of all the trees in that zone,” said Jander Muniz Rabelo, a forestry engineer who has worked for Petrobras for the past five years.
The inventory will allow the same exact species to be replanted once the development of the area has concluded, he added.