By Jaylan Boyle, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – State-controlled but market-floated petroleum giant Petrobras announced last Friday the discovery of a new onshore ‘light’ crude oil field in the Amazonia state, for which Petrobras owns full production rights. The new well was drilled near the town of Tefe, around 600 kilometers from the Amazonian capital of Manaus, and lies within the Solimoes Basin.

Satellite image of the Amazonia region, photo by NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

The exploratory well is to be known as Igarape Chibata 1. The recent find is located very near the Urucu field, where Petrobras is already developing three natural gas deposits that are to feed Manaus and surrounding Amazonia towns and cities. Outgoing president Luis Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva last Friday inaugurated a thermoelectric power generation plant in Manaus that is to be fed by these gas deposits.

The well has been drilled to a depth of 3,485 meters, and Petrobras experts predict that the new find could reach a yield of 2,500 barrels per day, a comparatively minor output when compared with others that the company are developing. The massive offshore Tupi concession, referred to as ‘pre-salt’ due to it’s lying beneath a two kilometer thick layer of problematic salt, is rated at possibly yielding some 30,000 barrels per day, per drilled well.

The Manaus region of Amazonia, photo Raphael Lorenzeto de Abreu/wikimedia creative commons licence

However, the new Amazonian find is seen by Petrobras as viable because the crude oil within is of a uniquely high quality, seldom seen in Brazil on or offshore.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) uses a rating system based on density as compared to water, with any rating above ten indicating oil that will float on water, and any lower than ten sinking. Most oil thus far discovered in and around Brazil is of the heavy type. The Igarape Chibata 1 well should yield crude oil with a density rating of 46, making it some of the lightest crude ever found in the region.

The Igarape Chibata well test began in September this year, and Petrobras have stated that they intend conducting further seismic studies and other testing to fully determine the extent and total potential yield of the new well. In a statement, Petrobras called the results of initial testing “an excellent result when dealing with this type of basin in Brazil”.

So far, environmentalist groups have remained silent regarding the potentially damaging impact to the Amazonian region. The controversial Belo Monte Dam, which was approved in February for the Amazon, attracted far more attention.

The Tupi field pre-salt reserves on the other hand continue to dominate international interest, and could increase Brazil’s proven oil reserves more than four-fold, from it’s existing 14 billion barrels. This would catapult the country into the world’s top tier petroleum producing countries.


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