RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil raised 3.15 billion reais (around $830 million) in fixed signing bonuses on Thursday in its fourth auction of oil blocks in a deepwater region of the Atlantic Ocean known as the pre-salt.
The winner of the largest and most coveted block – known as Uirapuru – was a consortium made up of Brazilian state oil company Petrobras (30 percent stake), Irving, Texas-based supermajor Exxon Mobil (28 percent), Norway’s Statoil (28 percent) and Portugal’s Petrogal (14 percent).
It won the block after offering the government a record 75.48 percent share of so-called profit oil, more than three times the minimum required by the National Petroleum Agency (ANP, Brazil’s oil regulator).
Two other consortiums also were awarded licenses for blocks in the pre-salt region, so-named because its massive reserves are located under water, rocks and a layer of salt at depths thousands of meters below the surface of the Atlantic.
One of them is made up of Royal Dutch Shell (40 percent), San Ramon, California-based Chevron (30 percent) and Petrobras (30 percent), while the other is led by Petrobras (45 percent) and also includes BP Energy (30 percent) and Statoil (25 percent).
Although Petrobras initially only was part of that latter consortium, it exercised its right under pre-salt regulations to be an operating partner in the other two consortiums with at least a 30 percent stake.
The ANP received offers that were well above what had been expected for the three most coveted blocks in the auction. The auction of a fourth smaller block, Itaimbezinho, did not attract any bidders and was declared void.
The bid round was among the most successful in recent years, according to ANP director Decio Oddone.
He said that in addition to the proceeds from the fixed signing bonuses the auction also would guarantee some 40 billion reais (some $10.5 billion) in income for the state over the 30-year lifespan of the contracts in the form of profit-sharing arrangements and taxes and royalties.
The consortium led by Shell and Chevron that won the right to develop a pre-salt block known as Tres Marias offered the government 49.95 percent of the profit oil, more than five times the minimum required.
The third block that attracted interest, Dois Irmaos, was awarded to the Petrobras-BP-Statoil consortium, which offered the government a 16.43 percent share of the profit oil, the minimum proportion required.
“It was a very successful auction because it attracted the attention of the world largest oil companies, which made offers that were higher than what we were expecting; it showed how competitive the pre-salt is,” Oddone said.
He said that all told the Brazilian government would have a nearly 90 percent share of liquid revenues from the development of Uirapuru, adding that such a high level was “not even seen in the Middle East.”
The four blocks on offer on Thursday contain roughly 5 billion barrels of oil and natural gas.
Prior to this latest auction Brazil had only awarded licenses to develop six blocks in the pre-salt region, which contains tens of billions of barrels of hydrocarbon reserves.