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By Doug Gray, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – The most important Expo of its kind in South America got underway on Monday September 13th, with the world’s energy industry focusing its attentions on the week-long Rio Oil and Gas show 2010 at the RioCentro Convention Center, Barra da Tijuca.

Petrobras' stand in Pavilion Four of Rio Oil and Gas 2010, photo by Doug Gray.

Everyone from the biggest global energy companies like Shell and Chevron to the smallest producer of specialist flotation devices were on display, whilst Petrobras‘ marketing did everything to make their presence felt, and Brazilian billionaire Ike Batista’s OGX delivered a sharp-looking stand showcasing their plans for the coming blocks of pre-salt offshore oil drilling.

Batista has recently declared an intention to sell seven billion dollars of OGX assets, including minority shares in some of their Campos Basin blocks that he told the press Chinese companies are interested in purchasing.

André Araújo, recently-appointed President of Shell Brazil, appeared cautious towards the company’s future in the Campos Basin, whilst Chevron are upping their production further north in Espirito do Santo. Targeting 62,000 barrels a day, that figure remains only around two thirds of the estimated maximum level, a signal of the difficult task of drilling in Brazil’s offshore fields.

Brazil’s ANP Petroleum Agency meanwhile used the event to announce that auditors have increased their estimations of the size of the Libra field, making it comparable to Tupi, The America’s largest discovery of crude oil in decades. Marco Antônio Martins Almeida of the ANP said that new seismic data suggests it holds around eight billion barrels, and that drilling should be completed soon and first testing underway before the end of the year.

The entrance to Pavilion one on the opening day of Rio Oil and Gas 2010, photo by Doug Gray.

The vast event, occupying all five of the Convention Center’s pavilions, looks set to comfortably break attendance records as well as seeing the highest demand from exhibitors. Every conceivable element of the industry was on display from lifeboats to cranes, piping to rigs, and, of course, drills. With so many derivatives fighting for a fraction of the pre-salt profits, few could afford not to exhibit.

Thursday morning sees a special session being held on the technological requirements of the pre-salt drilling block, technology that Brazil in particular has been working on since the middle of last century and considers itself well placed to address.

The global context of the Brazilian petrochemical industry, highly relevant given the delay since 2007 in appointing further blocks for sale to the companies on whose investment it relies, also receives particular attention on the afternoon of Wednesday 15th, with a seminar dedicated to the subject.

The sheer numbers and divers nationalities of those in attendance at the opening day were testament to the level of importance which the event has achieved on the back of the high-profile pre-salt oil discoveries.

The city’s hotels were booked up months in advance, whilst several companies are hosting exclusive events and dinners throughout the week, which concludes with an industry golf competition and networking event in the coastal resort of Búzios on Saturday.

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