Petrobras' Schist Oil Production Technology to Be Applied in Jordan

Petrobras has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Energy & Mineral Resources of Jordan to undertake a Technical & Economic Viability Study for the use of the Petrosix technology at block AUG 21, in the Attarat field.

Petrobras' patented Petrosix technology is the only one that has been tested, consolidated and acknowledged worldwide on the industrial production scale. In 2006, Petrobras' average oil production from schist was 4,200 barrels a day at the Schist Industrialization Business Unit (Six) in Sao Mateus do Sul, 140 kilometers from Curitiba. The plant is set in one of the world's biggest reserves of this mineral, the Irati Formation, which covers the states of Sao Paulo, Parana, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Goias.

International interest

Technical and economic studies will be carried out to evaluate the alternatives for commercial schist oil use in Jordan. Assessment work is foreseen to last up to 24 months and will be done by a group formed by Petrobras International and Downstream Area representatives.

The AUG 21 block covers an 11 square kilometer area and has potential reserves of 1.7 billion barrels (data estimated by the NRA). The schist layer is approximately 70 meters thick.

The Memorandum was signed in the presence of the person in charge of Business for the Brazilian Embassy in Amman, representing Ambassador Antonio Carlos da Rocha. The International Area's general manager for New Business in the United Kingdom, Demarco Jorge Epifanio, signed for Petrobras. Among others, the Jordanian minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, Dr. Khaled Najieb Eslhuraydeh and NRA (National Resources Authority) Director, Dr. Maher also attended the event.

Due to the current oil prices on the international market, schist oil exploration gained a new drive in the global context, motivating countries such as Jordan, Morocco, the United States, and China to contact Petrobras in search for partnerships in this activity.

Jordan has a significant bituminous schist reserve, formed by high-quality schist that is apparently compatible with the Petrosix technology.

Petrosix technology

Schist is a sedimentary rock that contains kerogen, an organic complex that produces oil and gas under thermal decomposition. There are two layers of schist in the Sao Mateus do Sul region: a superior, 6.4-meter thick one with a 6.4% oil content, and a lower, 3.2-meter thick layer with a 9.1% oil content. The Unit occupies a seven million square meter area and is considered one of the world's most important in mineral exploration.

Petrobras' schist exploration commenced in 1954, in the Tremembe municipality, in the Paraíba Valley (SP). The first tests were carried out with Irati Formation schist, extracted from the Sao Mateus do Sul field, tree years later, in 1957. Petrobras' board approved the construction of a plant in the Sao Mateus do Sul municipality in 1959, and it went online in 1972. The last stage of Petrobras technology's consolidation was concluded when operations were kicked-off at the Industrial Module, in December 1991.

After extracted in the open air, the schist is transported through a grinder, which reduces rocks size to no more than 8 centimeters. The mineral is then taken continuously on a conveyor belt to a vertical cylindrical reactor, also known as retort, to be heated to approximately 500 degrees C. In this stage, the mineral releases organic matter in the form of oil and gas. The schist is then cooled, causing oil vapor to condensate to droplets, which are transported by the gases out of the retort. These droplets are collected and form heavy oil.

After heavy oil removal, schist gases undergo another cleaning process for the light oil extraction. The rest of the mineral is sent to the gas treatment unit, where fuel gas and liquefied gas (LPG) are produced and sulfur recovered. After the oil and the gas are extracted from the rock, whatever is left of it is taken to the mine diggings to be covered by a layer of sand and vegetable soil, which allows the area to later be used to raise cattle, to plant and for urbanization.