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Cablegate: Brazil to Resume Oil Auctions in December 2008

VZCZCXRO6141
RR RUEHRG
DE RUEHRI #0235 2491055
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 051055Z SEP 08
FM AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4601
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0938
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 5173
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 3444
RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RHEBAAA/USDOE WASHDC

UNCLAS RIO DE JANEIRO 000235

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/BSC, WHA/EPSC, EB/ESC
USDOC FOR 4332/ITA/MAC/WH/OLAC/JANDERSEN/ADRISCOLL/MWAR D
USDOE FOR CAROLYN GAY AND RHIA DAVIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ENRG EPET EINV BR
SUBJECT: Brazil to Resume Oil Auctions in December 2008

REF: A) 07 Sao Paulo 899, B) Rio de Janeiro 91, C) Rio de Janeiro
35, D) Rio de Janeiro 138, E) Rio de Janeiro 135, F) Rio de Janeiro
159, G) Brasilia 910, H) Brasilia 1122

1. Brazil's National Energy Policy Council has authorized the
National Petroleum Agency (ANP) to host an auction to license oil
and gas rights on December 18, 2008. However, no offshore blocks
will be offered at the "10th Round" auction to the disappointment of
many industry representatives. Licensing bid rounds, held annually
in Brazil since 1997, were suspended in late 2007 following the
discovery of potentially massive "pre-salt" oil and gas reserves
located in ultra-deep waters off of Brazil's southeastern coast.
(REFTELS A, B, C) The government is considering a reform of the
regulatory framework for exploration and production in these areas
to raise the state's share of revenues. (REFTELS D and G)
2. The Council apparently disregarded ANP's recommendation to
include offshore opportunities in the upcoming auction, instead
deciding to limit further concession contracts to Brazil's
less-attractive, riskier sedimentary basin. The 10th Round will
include 171 onshore blocks covering 107,000 square kilometers in
eight basins: Amazonas, Potiguar, Parecis, Sco Francisco,
Sergipe-Alagoas, Rectncavo, Paran and Pernambuco-Paraba.
According to ANP, there is little-to-no knowledge or seismic data
for over 94 percent of Brazil's 7.5 million square kilometer onshore
sedimentary basin.
3. Reaction from industry representatives and energy sector experts
to the announcement of the 10th Round is luke-warm, at best. Though
industry had been pressuring for the government to resume auctions,
it also strongly argued that the government needed to offer
attractive opportunities even if pre-salt blocks were off the table.
The government's decision was exaggerated by sensitivities to the
pre-salt debate -- it could have easily added areas in shallow
waters, according to Adriano Pires, a Rio-based energy specialist
and Director of the Center for Brazilian Infrastructure.
4. "We have taken away the offshore fields, just to be safe," local
press quoted Energy Minister Edison Lobco as saying in Braslia. He
also cited concerns about the ability of industry, including
Petrobras, to take on more offshore exploration at this time.
(REFTEL E) While Minister Lobao announced that there is a "big
group" of oil companies who are interested only in land blocks, it
is unlikely that the 10th Round will garner much interest from
Petrobras, the six U.S. oil and gas companies operating in Brazil,
or other major players such as newcomer OGX (REFTEL F). In fact,
over the last year, ANP has been seeking the U.S. Government's help
to learn how to better promote on-shore opportunities given the
current lack interest in Brazil. Minister Lobao also requested the
assistance of Acting Deputy Secretary of Energy Jeffery Kupfer
during his August visit here (REFTEL H) and has spoken with
Ambassador Sobel regularly about stimulating U.S. industry interest
in these areas, possibly through the involvement of Commerce
Secretary Gutierrez (REFTEL G). Lobao has also expressed his
willingness to travel to the U.S. as part of a campaign to solicit
the interest of smaller and independent developers (Note: a request
to schedule a date is still pending with Lobao's office).
5. ANP Director Haroldo Lima has recently expressed doubt that the
agency could even hold a new licensing round before the end of 2008
due to the limited time frame; it is likely that the 10th Round
could be postponed until 2009.
6. This cable has been coordinated with and cleared by Embassy
Brasilia.

MARTINEZ

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