Brazilian Court Reopens Abrolhos Area to Oil Exploration - ANP

RIO DE JANEIRO (Dow Jones Newswires), Dec. 28, 2010

A Brazilian federal court has overruled a ban on oil exploration in the Abrolhos offshore area of Bahia state in the country's northeast, freeing the area to activities by Brazilian and foreign oil companies, Brazil's National Oil Regulator ANP said Tuesday.

The regional federal court in Brazil's first region upheld an appeal by ANP against the ban on the grounds of the general public's economic interest, ANP said. The ban was enforced early this year after Brazil's public ministry obtained an injunction prohibiting oil exploration in the area on environmental grounds.

There are 16 exploration blocks in the Jequitinhonha and Espirito Santo basins within a 50-kilometer radius of Abrolhos, where there is a national marine park, but no oil production in the area yet, ANP said. State-controlled oil and gas giant Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PBR, PETR4.BR) or Petrobras, holds the concession to 11 of the blocks, Perenco Corp. to two, Queiroz Galvao to one, Royal Dutch Shell to one and Oil & Natural Gas Corp. Ltd. (500312.BY), or ONGC, to one, ANP said.

"Abrolhos is an environmentally sensitive area, frequented by whales," an ANP spokeswoman said. "All activities there have to gain environmental licensing from federal environment institute Ibama," she said.

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