What lies beneath

Is there really an ocean of oil off Brazil?

JUST how much oil is there off the coast of Brazil? Until recently, Brazil?s oil reserves were thought to be relatively modest: about 12 billion barrels at the beginning of 2007, according to BP, or about 1% of the world?s total. But last year, Petrobras, Brazil?s partly state-owned oil firm, announced the world?s biggest oil discovery since 2000: the Tupi field, which it hopes will produce between 5 billion and 8 billion barrels. Now the head of Brazil?s National Petroleum Agency (ANP) says another nearby discovery might hold as much as 33 billion barrels, which would make it the third-largest field ever found. That alone would be enough to raise Brazil to eighth position in the global oil rankings?and there is talk of further big discoveries. But the peculiar way in which the information came to light is casting doubt on its significance.

The ANP, which regulates the oil industry in Brazil, was quick to distance itself from the remarks of its boss, Haroldo Lima. His comments were of a personal nature, it said, and were based on past reports in the media. It helpfully cited an article from a magazine, World Oil, that had mentioned the magic figure of 33 billion barrels in February. Petrobras and its partners in the field, BG of Britain and Repsol-YPF of Spain, said that they had not yet done enough tests to determine exactly how much oil it contained. ...


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