Petrobras: Research and Development in the Pre-Salt
By Petrobras News Agency.
The Executive Manager for Petrobras' Research and Development Center (Cenpes), Carlos Tadeu Costa Fraga, speaks about the company's investments in research and development in Brazil, and talks about the challenges brought about by the pre-salt.
Q: Brazil Oil and Gas – How has Petrobras' investment in research and development (R&D) transformed the Brazilian technological park in the energy area?
A: Carlos Tadeu – For five years in a row, Petrobras has been among the eight biggest investors in research and development in the oil and gas industry worldwide, including oil and service companies. Our investments added up to approximately $900 million in 2008 and 2009 alone. This level of investment was a significant part of the development of research projects in cooperation with Brazilian universities. This research, in particular, the partnership with Brazilian universities, has given us a chance to build, together, and using part of these resources, experimental infrastructure that did not previously exist in Brazil. Petrobras is fully aware of the most important offshore exploration and production laboratories in the world, and we, through the investments we have made over the past few years, are reproducing the labs we used to use the most abroad in Brazil. The investments made in universities, together with the investments we are making in the expansion of the Cenpes, are turning the domestic technological park in the oil and gas area into one of the best equipped in the world.
An important effect of this movement is the perception, by our major international suppliers, of the existence of this technology park in Brazil. Considering the interest among these suppliers to establish even more intense commercial ties with Petrobras in response to orders coming from the pre-salt, we are also taking advantage of this to develop deeper intellectual relationships with these suppliers. In other words, undertaking research with these suppliers in Brazil. So, in sum, international suppliers are building research centers in Brazil. This is a move the press has dubbed "the creation of the presalt's Silicon Valley". Of course, the pre-salt is not the only thing that stands to benefit from this. Discussions have already been surfacing about collaboration in the refining, natural gas, biofuels, and environment areas. This is certainly a movement that is starting to afford benefits to Petrobras and is becoming known by the international industry.
Q: Brazil Oil and Gas – How many networks, research centers, and universities are involved in this process?
A: Carlos Tadeu – We currently have 50 networks, which work in total alignment with our technological challenges. We singled out 50 topics that are of technological interest to Petrobras with those Brazilian universities which have the most training in each of the themes worked on under each of the networks. Across the networks, we have about 80 universities and research institutes participating in the effort in Brazil. This is a nationwide movement. There are many universities in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, obviously, but several of them are in Northeastern, Southern, Northern, and Midwestern Brazil too. The constructed area of the new or refurbished laboratories at these universities adds up to four times the area of the Cenpes. It is as if we had multiplied our experimental capacity fourfold with the construction of these networks and their associated infrastructure.
We are increasing our international cooperation – we are bringing foreign universities into the loop to participate in these networks. Today, we are able to attract foreign researchers to Brazil because we have more appropriate laboratory facilities here, and they can impart knowledge, build critical mass, and help us increase the amount and the quality of the research human resources in Brazil. Companies are coming to the technological park at the University City located on the Ilha do Fundão (RJ). Four companies have already stated their intention to settle here. Schlumberger, a leading global provider of specialist exploration and production services, Baker Hughes, which is a major Schlumberger competitor and also a Petrobras partner of many years – both companies with very high investment capacities in technology – and FMC Technologies, the world's largest manufacturer of marine oil production equipment. These three have made their investment decisions, as has Usiminas, which is important because it is the first Brazilian company to make this move, as it is interested in undertaking research in materials for the pre-salt with Petrobras. Usiminas has also stated its intention to install facilities here, and we are only waiting for the university's approval, something I believe will soon happen. And, following the lead of these four compa- Costa Fraga Interview Brazil Oil & Gas Issue 17 13 nies, we have information that several others have similar plans. Some will settle in Rio de Janeiro, others in other states, and our aim is that they install themselves in Brazil with research activities so that they not only have manufacturing plants here, but also do research in the country in partnership with Petrobras and Brazilian universities. In practice, Petrobras has built a joint research project portfolio with each of these companies, in which we invest money and human resources.
Q: Brazil Oil and Gas – Based on this scenario, what are the next steps Petrobras will take in R&D in the upcoming decades?
A: Carlos Tadeu – The establishment of this technology park will certainly afford a major leap forward in the possibility of carrying research out in Brazil. But we will not put our international involvement on the back burner. In a globalized world such as the one we live in, knowledge can be present in other centers of excellence, and we must pursue it, but we increased Brazil's coordination capacity with other important centers around the world. Petrobras has three major R&D lines: the first line seeks to expand the current boundaries of the oil and natural gas exploration, production, and refining businesses. Petrobras has given more emphasis to the second line each year, because it is the one that seeks to increase the range of energy products the Company provides to society. This second line includes renewable energy, and major emphasis is placed on biofuel. Petrobras, via Cenpes, is studying and implementing, together with the Company's Gas & Energy area, wind energy, solar energy, and sea energy projects. And the third major axis of the future is the sustainability line. Our operations are carried out with all necessary care regarding environmental protection and social inclusion. In this axis, there are important issues such as reducing water consumption in our operations, since water is an increasingly scarce, valuable resource, and this is a very important matter. Emission reduction is another very important topic. Finally, the topic of energy efficiency, consuming less energy in our processes and ensuring ever better use of the energy that is present in our products so that more people on the globe can benefit from that energy and as a carrier of well-being for the society. Today, a third of the world's population is unfamiliar with modern energy sources. This is amazing in a society that has a great degree of technological advancement that brings us new discoveries each day. Those who produce energy have to do so consuming less and less energy in internal processes, and must provide more energy to society.
Q: Brazil Oil and Gas – And what about the pre-salt?
A: Carlos Tadeu – Yes, the challenge of overcoming technological barriers to ensure access by a growing number of people to modern forms of energy, and doing this sustainably, is happening at a very opportune moment for the Company. Petrobras recently discovered very important oil and gas deposits off the Brazilian coast, in the so-called pre-salt layer, under the salt layer. These fields have the potential, in terms of short-term oil production, that might catapult Petrobras to another level. Petrobras, which had been growing steadily and gradually over its history, can make a great leap in a very short period of time. Obviously, all of the experience Petrobras had previously accumulated on account of its innovations applied to deep waters represents an excellent starting point for us to overcome any challenges we may have to confront in the pre-salt, and places us in a privileged position, not only for having discovered these reserves, but also for having a lot of experience in deep-water operations. The volumes that have been foreseen are enormous, affording a scale that will help us develop the domestic industry, turning it into an even more competitive industry, on an international scale. Human resources will be increasingly necessary for Petrobras, its suppliers, universities, and for the academic world.
All of this introduces a new drive, a new vector of social and economic development in Brazil. The pre-salt is attractive from the technological point of view, presenting issues that Petrobras can work on and improve the methods and processes that we already apply to wells already in production in extended well testing systems, and, more so than for Petrobras, the pre-salt is a great development platform for the country. As it has already done in the past, Petrobras will continue working in coordination with our main goods and services providers, and with universities, and research institutes to seize this opportunity even better. So, the pre-salt is one of the big attractions of the oil and gas industry in the world.
Q: Brazil Oil and Gas – Because it is a new technological frontier?
A: Carlos Tadeu – In some respects. The pre-salt is a new frontier, but the experience of Petrobras in deep waters guarantees us a privileged position. We have an excellent starting point as our experience is recognized internationally and also because it is a new technological frontier. It is interesting because with all this excitement over the pre-salt, Petrobras is also in the U.S., in the Gulf of Mexico. In the Cascade and Chinook fields, it is implementing systems which are innovative to the region, such as the use of FPSO (floating production, storage and offloading) type platform vessels, based on all of the experience we developed in Brazil. When we operate in the Gulf we also incorporate the experiences of other operators, and, certainly, some solutions that are being used, such as, for example, the tension-leg well platforms (TLWP), which we will be able to apply in Brazil, perhaps in the pre-salt, and certainly in other situations, such as in the Papa-Terra field. Petrobras' international presence introduces another benefit, the possibility of using technologies we have developed and implemented in Brazil all over the world, affording Petrobras the opportunity to be in touch with what is being done in another parts of the globe.