Chinese oil firms, Europe giants win Brazil auction

By Claire De Oliveira Neto, AFP

RIO DE JANEIRO–China’s CNOOC and CNPC, Anglo-Dutch giant Royal Dutch Shell and France’s Total joined Brazilian state operator Petrobras on Monday in winning production rights to the huge “Libra” Atlantic oilfield. The five firms won 35-year concessions, with Petrobras taking a 40 percent stake, more than the minimum required by the terms of Brazil’s offer, which has been controversial at home. Shell and Total both earned a 20 percent stake, with CNOOC and CNPC securing 10 percent each.

Their consortium was the only bid to offer the Brazilian state the minimum 41.65 percent of oil to be extracted from the site, which holds an estimated eight to 12 billion barrels of oil. To put that into context, Brazil currently has 15.3 billion barrels of proven reserves and is already the second-largest in South America after Venezuela. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff hailed the auction’s outcome, calling it a “success” that would bring about a “small revolution” in the country. Finance Minister Guido Mantega, meanwhile, said the government was “very satisfied.” “We are talking about … 41 percent of a very big cake — so we are very satisfied with this stake,” he added. The auction attracted 10 participants, but none from the United States. U.S. firms saw too many strings attached, including major state intervention via Petrobras, which will enjoy sole operator status. A further concern was the creation of a new state company, PPSA, to oversee offshore exploration. Spain’s Repsol pulled out just ahead of a decision, unveiled at a hotel in Rio. Analysts had expected China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) to land the lion’s share of the deal. Instead, they each had to settle for less than their Anglo-Dutch and French partners. Even so, with Libra holding the equivalent of around three years worth of ever rising Chinese consumption, China’s state firms were keen to come aboard. Brazilian Energy Minister Edison Lobao indicated Libra will transform the country’s energy scene and “more than duplicate its reserves inventory of proven oil reserves.” Magda Chambriard, head of oil regulator ANP, said that Libra would produce “300 billion reals (US$150 billion) in royalties” alone. The concessions are for developing huge so-called “pre-salt” oil deposits found six years ago in deep water off Brazil’s Atlantic coast. The winning consortium will have to pay a signing fee of 15 billion reals (US$6.9 billion).