October 8, 2013 / 5:57 PM / 4 years ago

BG nears partner deal on Brazil Barreirinhas basin

4 Min Read

* Head of exploration signals farm-down close

* Says Tanzania LNG site selection "coming to a conclusion"

By Andrew Callus

LONDON, Oct 8 (Reuters) - BG Group Plc is close to a deal or deals that would reduce its 100 percent holdings in a group of six exploration licence blocks off Brazil's coast, the company said on Tuesday, a signal it aims to push ahead promptly with drilling there.

The assets are in Brazil's Barreirinhas Basin, a prospect it calls a "frontier position" and says may contain more than 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

BG won the assets as part of a licensing round in May, Brazil's first in five years and one which raised a record $1.4 billion.

Unusually for offshore Brazil, where state-controlled Petrobras dominates operatorship of fields, the British oil and gas group is the operator of all 10 it bought into. It sees the Barreirinhas as its 2013 contribution to a company target of one new basin entry per year to keep its project pipeline filled.

It holds 50 percent of four Barreirinhas blocks in partnership with Petrobras and Galp Energia of Portugal, and 100 percent of a further six blocks in which it wants to bring in a partner or partners.

Selling stakes in acreage to other companies at an early stage is called a farm-down and is common practice in the oil industry to spread risk and exploration and development cost.

"So at the moment we are 100 percent, and I know that we are involved in one thing at the moment to change that," said Malcolm Brown, BG's executive vice president for exploration. "It's active portfolio management at the exploration phase".

Brown was speaking to reporters with help from slides presented to investors in September. The Barreirinhas assets were identified at the time as farm-down or equity swap opportunities.

Brown did not name the likely partner or partners, but interest in offshore Brazil assets has been strong for years thanks to huge discoveries in the Santos basin to the south of the Barreirinhas.

These have put Petrobras, and BG, a partner with the state giant in some Santos basin blocks, at the top of a value creation league table for the period 2002-2011 published by Wood Mackenzie.

"It's an attractive part of Brazil... and everybody wants to explore Brazil," said analyst Oswald Clint of Bernstein, who said the news confirms the emphasis on strength in exploration that BG wanted to make when it appointed Brown to the board in January this year reporting directly to new chief executive Chris Finlayson.

"They only got these things back in May, so they're obviously moving quickly to right-size that acreage," Clint said. Smaller explorer Chariot Oil and Gas also has Barreirinhas blocks.

A more recent offshore Brazil bidding round did not attract much interest from oil majors, with BG among those that abstained.

However, Brown said he had taken a number of phone calls expressing interest in partnership after winning the blocks in May, and cited the complexities of the bidding process as one reason why interest can sometimes look low.

Brown also said the company was "coming to a conclusion" on the site selection stage for a gas liquefaction plant on the coast of Tanzania.

He would not be drawn on the likely date at which it might receive a Final Investment Decision (FID) - slated in presentations as near the end of 2016.

FID for the project would likely be made in conjunction with fellow Tanzania explorers Exxon Mobil and Norway's Statoil, he said. (Reporting by Andrew Callus and Stephen Eisenhammer, editing by William Hardy)

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