Black Gold: How Brazil May Have Catapulted Itself To Massive Oil Riches

As I type this, plans to invade Brazil that haven’t seen the light of day since 1936 are being dusted off in the Pentagon.
Image from hanneorla

The proud home of Ronaldo, Pele, and some of the hottest women on the planet has struck 33 billion barrels of oil – the third largest oil field in the world.

Wait, we’re running out of oil as a planet–how did Petrobas find this field? And how will they access it?

It’s the most basic principle of searching for any resource: as you discover less, smaller amounts become acceptable, and going to greater lengths makes more sense. Obviously the smaller amounts bit has become very true–anybody familiar with shale oil? However, in this case it is a matter of extending the envelope. Petrobas hasn’t said exactly where the new field is, despite the fact that a 33 million barrel field is pretty large. Howver, one can probably imagine that being in the ocean: “searching in new places” invariably means deep water.

For comparison, the deepest rig in the world, currently operating in the Gulf of Mexico under the name “Jack 2”, runs more than 5 miles down. Special sonar is used to obtain a 3-D image of the geology below the seafloor, and the rig, which in this case is floating, not anchored, like shallow-water rigs.

Of course, this is where the technology comes in. It takes some pretty amazing materials to make a pipe that weighs a million pounds, that is five miles long, and that can hit a target the size of a dinner plate from a moving platform.

Chevron, on the Jack 2 platform, has been able to resort to brute force, better equipment made from superior materials, setting world records for performance.

The biggest difference however, has been the surveying, which in the end justifies the expense. Just take a look at a non-confidential map of areas in the Gulf that have more than 5% fossil fuel deposits subsurface here.

This discovery could potentially lead to Brazil becoming one of the major players in the oil market. The fast developing nation could become the 7th largest producer and a member of OPEC – a tight intergovernmental circle of oil producing countries.