Brazil Offering Deepwater Blocks in 17th Offshore Licensing Round
Late in 2020 Brazil announced details of its 17th Licensing Round, delayed by the Covid pandemic, in which 92 blocks in the offshore Campos, Pelotas, Potiguar and Santos Basins, covering a total of 53,900 km2, will be offered. The preliminary schedule announced by the ANP, the Brazilian licensing authority, included a public hearing to discuss the auction and concession contract in February and technical and environmental, legal and tax seminars at dates yet to be confirmed. The public bidding round is scheduled to be held in October and awards are expected in December. Technical data packages, including seismic lines and well data, are available for all areas.
The Campos Basin, where 15 blocks are offered, has the longest history of oil and gas exploration in Brazil and is now considered mature. Extending into ultradeep waters, it is attractive because the blocks offered are on the edge of the defined pre-salt polygon and there is extensive geological data, including seismic, over the area.
No discoveries have yet been made in the Pelotas Basin, which lies on the border with Uruguay and it is relatively underexplored, but there are indications of a working petroleum system. Eight of the blocks on offer are in water depths greater than 2,000m, 16 lie between 440 and 1,000m and the remaining 26 are smaller blocks situated in shallower waters.
The onshore Potiguar Basin in north-east Brazil has considerable onshore and shallow water production but is significantly underexplored in the deeper waters. The majority of the 14 blocks available in this round are in over 2,000m of water.
Santos, currently Brazil’s top producing basin, usually attracts a high number of bidders interested in its extensive pre-salt areas. The 13 blocks available in the 17th round all lie just to the south of the delineated pre-salt polygon, mostly in over 2,000m water depth. Interestingly, three of them straddle the 200 nm line limiting the extent of Brazil’s exclusive economic zone for the first time, so any discoveries beyond that limit will require the adoption of specific procedures under different legislation.
It had been anticipated that blocks in the Pará-Maranhão and Foz do Amazonas Basins along Brazil’s equatorial margin in the north-west would be offered, but these have been dropped because of environmental concerns. This has disappointed several players who had hoped to see how far the successful ExxonMobil Stabroek trend extended into Brazilian waters.