Finding Oil in Brazil
Carlos Walter Marinho Campos, Patrick J. V. Delaney
Although oil in fractures of bituminous shales of Early Cretaceous age had been known since 1858 in Bahia, oil production in Brazil was delayed for eight decades. There were two fundamental reasons for this belated development. First, the paucity of good oil and gas seeps like those found in other countries and second, Brazilian entrepreneurs did not have the financing or the tradition of risk taking and technology to plunge into oil exploration. Thus, the development of the oil industry in Brazil evolved along different lines than in other countries.
Basically, the history of finding oil in Brazil can be divided into five periods. They are: (1) early explorers (1858-1906); (2) the Geologic and Mineralogic Service (1907-1933); (3) the National Department of Mineral Production (1934-1938); (4) the National Petroleum Council (1939-1953); and (5) Petrobras (1953-present).
Petrobras was the beginning of the modern period of oil exploration in Brazil. Utilizing seismic interpretation methods, oil was discovered onshore in the Sergipe-Alagoas basin in 1957, in the Espirito Santo basin in 1969, and in the Potiquar basin in 1979. After many years of frustration looking for commercial oil in the huge Amazon basin, Petrobras discovered gas in the Jurua River Valley in 1978.
Although offshore drilling began with the discovery of the Guaricema field in 1968, it was not until the advent of modern offshore drilling and seismic technology that the prolific Garoupa field was discovered in 1974 which opened up the Campos basin. Furthermore, identification of huge structures in deep water by 3D seismic mapping methods indicate a bright future for Petrobras in offshore Brazil.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91028©1989 AAPG History of Petroleum Industry Symposium, September 17-20, 1989, Titusville, Pennsylvania.