Petrobras' Lifting Costs to Fall on Higher Production

Brazil's federal energy company Petrobras (NYSE: PBR) expects to continue reducing lifting costs as production recovers in the second half through new floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessels and increased output in the Marlim Sul field, company CFO José Gabrielli said during a conference call Tuesday.

The company's output fell to 1.46mb/d in the second quarter 2004 from 1.51mb/d in the same period of 2003 due to maintenance stoppages and accidents on some platforms, as well as international factors such as higher ship leasing costs.

As a result Petrobras' lifting costs rose from US$2.85/b in 1Q03 to US$4.22/b in 1Q04, before falling slightly to US$4.09/b in 2Q04, the company said.

Production is expected to increase significantly in the next few weeks, further lowering average lifting costs. "The cost of extraction will start to decline as we increase output," Gabrielli said. In 30 to 40 days, the company expects to increase production at the FSPO Marlim Sul in the Campos basin to 100,000 barrels a day (b/d) from 70,000b/d, Gabrielli said. The original deadline for the increase was September 15.

By the beginning of November, the P-43 FPSO should start production on the Barracuda field, and the P-48 FPSO should start production at the Caratinga field at end-January.

US company Halliburton is building both 150,000b/d capacity platforms, which have been subject to notorious delays. Hulls for the 180,000b/d P-50 FPSO should arrive from Singapore in mid-September for fitting, and are scheduled to start production on the Campos basin in the second half of 2005, the same time that the 60,000b/d P-34 FPSO is expected to start operations on the Jubarte field, in the Campos basin's Parque das Baleias.

Petrobras maintains its target to reach lifting costs of US$3/b in 2010. Petrobras is striving to reach self-sufficiency in a strategy that involves not only exploration and production but also refining.

Investment in refining is penciled in at US$1.2bn through 2010 to increase the present capacity by 250,000b/d, and convert some of the capacity to process heavy oil, reducing the demand for imported light crude. Brazil's oil is mostly heavy, which is more expensive to process.

Petrobras' 11 refineries account for 98% of total refining in Brazil, and at present 73% of their feedstock is Brazilian oil. The company's total output is some 1.7mb/d, while the country consumes some 1.87mb/d of oil derivatives, Gabrielli said.

A new refinery will only be needed after 2010, he said. "Our idea of self sufficiency is not zero imports of light crude, because investments to convert all refineries to process light crude would be too high," Gabrielli said.

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