Brazil to announce massive offshore oil discovery on Oct. 23

Thu Oct 3, 2013 4:37pm EDT

* Could be world's biggest oil strike of 2013

* Area may be billion-barrel-plus field, Reuters said Sept. 26

By Jeb Blount

RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Brazilian officials plan to announce the discovery of a gigantic offshore oil area near Sergipe state on Oct. 23, a find that could be the country's biggest outside the massive "subsalt" area off its southern coast, the state government said.

Brazil's Energy and Mines minister, Edison Lobão, will "officially announce the discovery" during a visit to the state capital Aracaju, a press spokesman for acting governor Jackson Barreto told Reuters on Thursday.

A drilling campaign by state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, known as Petrobras, and its Indian partner IBV Brasil has shown that their SEAL-11 block and adjoining areas about 100 kilometers (62 miles) off the coast contain more than 1 billion barrels of oil, Reuters reported on Sept. 26.

That is more than enough to supply all oil needs in the United States, the world's largest petroleum consumer, for nearly two months. If the find is as large as some expect, it would be the first major offshore discovery outside of the so-called subsalt region 1,500 kilometers to the south.

The subsalt is a name for oil reserves trapped by a layer of salt deep beneath the seabed in the Campos and Santos offshore basins, south and east of Rio de Janeiro.

"Lobão accepted the governor's invitation to travel to Aracaju on Oct. 23," the Sergipe government said in a statement. "On that day, according to the governor, the largest oil discovery in 2013 will be announced officially."

Brazil's energy ministry confirmed that Lobão is scheduled to go to Aracaju on Oct. 23. It declined to give a reason for his trip.

Petrobras declined to confirm the size of the find. But Chief Executive Maria das Graças Foster called it "a beautiful discovery" at a news conference on Sept. 27. She said the company planned to produce at least 100,000 barrels a day from deepwater offshore fields in Sergipe starting in 2018.

Petrobras, the operator of SEAL-11, owns 60 percent of the block and IBV owns the rest. IBV is a 50-50 joint venture between India's Bharat Petroleum Corp (BPCL) and Videocon Industries Ltd.

Industry and government sources previously told Reuters that the SEAL-11 block and adjacent areas may hold more than 3 billion barrels of oil in place, a term that includes unrecoverable resources as well as those that can be economically produced. That amount could be enough to allow production of about 1 billion barrels according to Brazilian industry sources, based on Brazilian recovery rates of about a third of oil in place.

Barreto is acting governor in Sergipe during the medical leave of the elected governor Marcelo Deda. (Editing by Todd Benson and Matthew Lewis)

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