Major Brazil Offshore Auction Attracts Global Producer Interest

The auction of drilling rights off the coast of Brazil planned for November, potentially offering more oil than all the proven reserves in Mexico, has attracted interest from some of the world’s largest producers.

Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell are among 14 companies registered, the government said Monday. Brazil expects to raise as much as 106 billion reais ($25 billion) in licensing fees from selling the leases.

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“This is an auction for big players given the volume of oil involved,” oil regulator Decio Oddone said in an interview.

The blocks up for grabs on Nov. 6 — Buzios, Atapu, Itapu and Sepia — are located in an area where state-controlled Petroleo Brasileiro SA obtained rights to 5 Bbbl of oil from the government in 2010. As Petrobras explored the region, it found much more crude than it was entitled to in the deal, leaving the government with a surplus.

Since then, the sale of the so-called Transfer of Rights oil has been hotly anticipated in the oil industry. The past five years has seen contract reviews and regulation changes. A milestone was reached last week when Congress eliminated a legal hurdle for the offering and cleared the way for a compensation payment of $9 billion to Petrobras, as the company is also known.

“The legal uncertainties around the round are over,” House speaker Rodrigo Maia said Friday.

The 11 companies registered for the auction as potential operators include not only Chevron, Exxon and Shell but also BP, CNODC, CNOOC, Equinor, Galp Energia SGPS’s Petrogal, Petrobras, Petroliam Nasional Bhd, and Total. Ecopetrol, Wintershall and QPI have signed up as prospective non-operators.

Unlike regular auctions where companies pay for the right to drill unexplored areas but also risk finding no crude, next month’s sale offers a large amount of discovered oil. Petrobras is already producing in the same deep-water region of the Atlantic Ocean.

Another difference with the November auction is a change to the rules set by Brazil’s National Petroleum Agency, in order to stimulate competition. Participating companies must simultaneously present to the regulator an envelope, even if doesn’t contain an actual bid.

In other auctions, bidders submit two or more envelopes: One has a floor price, in case there are no bids from competitors, while another contains a higher bid in case there’s interest from rivals.

A consulting firm hired by the regulator has said there are at least 6 billion surplus barrels and possibly as many as 15 billion in the blocks headed to auction. That compares to 7 Bbbl of proven reserves in Mexico. Petrobras’s own estimates of the oil the area haven’t been disclosed to the government or potential bidders.


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