Breakthroughs in drilling through challenging underwater geology are leading to rapid growth in oil production for Brazil’s Petrobras, an executive at the Offshore Technology Conference said Tuesday.
The company’s production from the “pre-salt” reservoirs off of Brazil’s coast have led to a current output of 310,000 barrels of oil per day, which is expected to surge to more than 1 million barrels per day in 2017 and more than 2 million barrels per day by 2020, said Carlos Tadeu da Costa Fraga, executive manager for Petrobras’ pre-salt exploration and production.
Petrobras began its pre-salt exploration in 2001 and made its first major discovery there in 2006.
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But that’s not when the excitement of pre-salt began, Fraga said.
“Everything started 105 million years ago when South America and Africa were both together, forming the Pangea continent,” he said.
The splitting of the continents led to a layer of oil and other hydrocarbons forming underneath a layer of salt that piled on more than a mile high in some places.
Petrobras’ growing production is coming through an aggressive effort to produce oil from that hydrocarbon-rich layer of rock.
The salt layer above the oil has presented challenges to geologists attempting to analyze reserves with seismic surveys. But new technology and approaches to drilling have helped Petrobras find oil in 80 percent of the wells it has drilled through the region, Fraga said.
Petrobras is employing new approaches to increase productivity and success, including horizontal drilling, Fraga said.
Petrobras is currently using horizontal drilling in pre-salt rock layers, he said.
The company has also succeeded in cutting its drilling time from 134 days per pre-salt well in 2006 to 70 days per well last year. A well this year was completed in 40 days, Fraga said.