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Brazil Maclatchy

  1. 1. 9 Oilgram News / Volume 91 / Number 56 / Wednesday, March 20, 2013 Rio de Janeiro—Petrobras will participate in the three bidding rounds the Brazilian govern- ment plans this year, company executives indicated. But, the state-controlled company will look for partners for future concessions. “This will be the participation strategy in the bids that will happen this year,” Explora- tion and Production Director Jose Formigli said during a teleconference with analysts March 19 to discuss the company’s 2013- 2017 business plan, released March 15. Formigli said the company was optimis- tic about concessions in northeast Brazil. Blocks from the so-called Equatorial Margin will be offered in the bidding round being held in May. “We continue focusing on the Equatorial Margin and East Margin, and we believe that there could be big plays there,” Formigli said. Formigli also deflected industry concern about Petrobras’ capacity to operate and fund new subsalt concessions. A subsalt round is planned for November, and under the “profit share” model introduced in 2010, Petrobras is required to operate all new subsalt con- cessions with a minimum 30% participation. Formigli said this meant that up to 70% of investment cost could be met by partners. “In the profit-share model, we will obliga- torily have 30% participation, and 70% could be us or by other partners,” said Formigli. “We can only know how the scenario will be when the government decides how the bid will be, what areas will be in the next profit- share auction.” Using a new exploration policy that was developed last year, the company is devel- oping scenarios to work with partners, said Formigli. “We are prepared for the areas that will be in the bid to be defined, and we will be ready to make our competitive participation in it viable,” he said. CEO Graca Foster also said the company has contracted a service company to work inside Petrobras on evaluating Brazil’s non- conventional reserves with an eye to the non-conventional reserves auction planned for later this year. Foster said that production of non-conven- tional gas was one of the company’s priori- ties, but that the existence of commercial reserves needed to be confirmed. “We are going to produce this gas,” she said. More Refiners At a press conference at Petrobras headquarters in Rio de Janeiro following the teleconference, Foster said: “The priority of the company indisputably is exploration and production.” But the CEO said that refinery projects remained important. Despite four domestic price rises in the last nine months, Petrobras continues to lose money importing gasoline and diesel at high international prices it then sells at fixed lower prices to meet rising domestic demand. “If there is something we learned really well in 2012, it was the importance of new refineries,” Foster said. Foster said that the Abreu e Lima refinery being constructed near Recife in northeast Brazil is 70.6% completed and its final cost will be $17.35 billion. But she admitted that the company had still not been able to confirm the participation of Venezuelan state- owned PDVSA in the project. The latest deadline for PDVSA to decide if it would enter as a partner in the refinery expired February 28, but the death of Venezu- elan president Hugo Chavez had complicated discussions, Foster said. A meeting with the PDVSA CEO had been requested. “We are available for PDVSA,” said Foster. “There is no way to look in the rearview mir- ror, to look backwards. We have to conclude this refinery.” Foster said that two other ambitious refinery construction projects—the Premium I and Premium II refineries in Maranhao and Ceara states in northeast Brazil are still on paper. Both projects are still in the “evalua- tion phase.” The CEO said the company had spent years on the refinery projects but they still only existed on paper. “All of this was con- ceived years ago. The only thing we did was write,” said Foster. “We learned in 2012 that we don’t have these refineries. It was not good.” Following staff changes in the downstream department, both refinery projects have been significantly changed. “The challenge now is to make these refineries viable for them to be extremely competitive in the international arena,” said Foster.— Dom Phillips Petrobras to participate in three bid rounds Sees E&P as a priority, but new refineries also part of company strategy Brazil court grants injunction against oil royalties law Rio de Janeiro—A justice at Brazil’s Supreme Court granted a temporary injunction sus- pending the new distribution of oil royalties amongst Brazil’s 27 states, as mandated by the nation’s new oil royalties law. Justice Carmen Lucia ordered late March 18 that no new royalty payments be made until the Supreme Federal Court can rule on the issue. A spokeswoman for the court said a date for a decision has not yet been set. Lucia’s injunction was in response to an appeal against the new law filed March 15 by the government of Rio de Janeiro, which says it stands to lose Reals 27 bil- lion ($13.6 billion) in revenue by 2020. Bra- zil’s other producing states, Espirito Santo and Sao Paulo, also filed lawsuits March 15 against the new law, but a Supreme Court statement regarding Lucia’s decision referred only to Rio’s complaint. Congress passed the law in November in order to distribute royalties between producing and non-producing states more equally. Following aggressive lobbying by producing states, mainly Rio de Janeiro and Espirito Santo, President Dilma Rousseff made a line-item veto to the bill that would guarantee producing states revenue from existing contracts. Congress overthrew that veto March 7, and the law went into effect a week and a day later when it was published in the Diario Oficial da Uniao (Official Gov- ernment Journal). The producing states say the law is unconstitutional as it breaks existing con- tracts and deprives them of revenue as compensation for environmental and other risks associated with oil and gas explora- tion. Sergio Cabral, governor of Rio, argued in the 51 page document filed March 15 that Brazil’s 1988 Constitution stipulates how royalties should be distributed and changes cannot be made by the regular Congressional process. Constitutional lawyer Claudio A Pinho, who specializes in oil and gas regulation, says he has “no doubt” that breaking existing contracts is unconstitutional, and that the Supreme Court will maintain President Rousseff’s veto, thus maintaining existing contracts. “There is a provision in article 5, para- graph 36, of the constitution that says that no new law can change the right to consoli- dated income rights,” he said. “This means that the producing states have the rights to the money [from royalties] that was agreed in the contract...if the law changes two years later, it doesn’t matter, this income cannot change.” Pinho said the law could, however, change the way that royalties from future contracts be distributed, such as those that will be signed during the long-awaited 11th bidding round for oil and gas concessions on May 14 and 15. Pinho added that he saw no danger of delay- ing the auction. However, for Adriano Pires of the Brazil- ian Center for Infrastructure, there is a real risk that the Supreme Court will not have resolved the issue by May’s round, the coun- try’s first since 2008. Brazil needs a new working royalties law before the auctions can go ahead. “This would be extremely bad for the oil and gas sector,” he said. Brazilian government officials have insisted that the case will not affect the country’s bidding round, but even so, the injunction is likely to cause some jitters among investors and therefore possibly diminish returns on the blocks up for auc- tion, Pires said.— Lucy Jordan The Americas