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Brazil expanding crude export options

26 May 2017 22:23 (+01:00 GMT)
Brazil expanding crude export options

Rio de Janeiro, 26 May (Argus) — Major oil producers in Brazil are starting to diversify their export strategies in anticipation of an expected leap in exports to around 2.6mn b/d in 2026, from 798,000 b/d in 2016.

Current oil production of around 2.5mn b/d is forecast to double by 2026, but limited refining capacity means more of that crude, particularly medium grades from prolific sub-salt reservoirs, will head to importing nations concentrated in Southeast Asia.

Producers have long complained that red tape and rules tipped in favor of state-controlled Petrobras, which says its exports will grow by 47.5pc in the next four years, have been a costly obstacle to marketing their share of production.

Complex environmental regulations, monitored by federal agency Ibama, make obtaining permits for offshore transshipment notoriously difficult. Other challenges include a requirement to use dynamic positioning vessels and Brazilian flagged and crewed cabotage tankers.

Prior to 2016, Petrobras was one of the few firms authorized to carry out ship-to-ship operations in Brazilian waters, off the coast of the southeastern state of Espirito Santo.

But newcomer Fendercare, a division of UK maritime specialist James Fisher, is now positioned to offer more options to private-sector producers. The company's offshore transshipment area is 50 nautical miles off the coast near the major sub-salt fields in the Santos basin.

An executive from Spain's Repsol, who produces crude in Brazil with Chinese joint venture partner China's Sinopec, says the company has already conducted around 14 operations with Fendercare.

Repsol-Sinopec holds working stakes in multiple sub-salt projects in Santos and is the second largest private-sector producer behind Shell with net production of around 81,000 b/d.

Brazil's largest private-sector producer is Shell, with net take of around 280,000 b/d. The major moves around 60pc of its exports through a 1.2mn b/d offshore oil terminal at Acu port in Rio de Janeiro state.

Shell´s 20-year agreement covering up to 200,000 b/d with Acu owner Prumo is a legacy deal inherited from the UK´s BG Group that Shell acquired in 2016.

The major carried out 10 operations at Acu in August-December 2016, and says it estimates it will conduct a total of 37 at the terminal, operated by Germany's Oiltanking, this year.

The remaining 40pc of its 2017 exports will undergo STS operations off Uruguay, the route other sub-salt producers such as Portugal´s Galp also use, but will diminish as more options become available in Brazil.

Last week, Uruguay's navy issued a license expanding the area of operation for offshore STS transfers, signaling its expectation of growing demand from Brazilian producers.

Local executives tell Argus that Uruguay will continue to play a role in their companies' export strategy, but harsh South Atlantic weather conditions and the three-day journey to La Paloma heighten navigational and logistical risks.

A major concern for producers is expanding the fleet of dynamic positioning ships in Brazil. There are currently around 25 vessels operating in Brazil, potentially creating bottlenecks as companies compete for capacity.