Andréa Novais

Andréa Novais

The Brazil Business


Understand Petrobras

Andréa Novais

Andréa Novais

The Brazil Business


Petrobras is one of the most prestigious Brazilian companies and responsible for the construction of a positive and confident image of Brazil overseas. This article will provide an overview of this Brazilian giant.


Petrobras, short for Petróleo Brasileiro S/A, is a semi-public Brazilian multinational energy corporation. Headquartered in Rio de Janeiro, it is the largest Latin American company by market capitalization and revenue.

Founded in 1953, today it operates in 28 different countries in the energy segment, giving priority to the exploitation, production, refining, commercialization and transportation of oil and its products.

After 40 years of monopoly, Petrobras began to compete against national and international companies in 1997, when president Fernando Henrique Cardoso signed into a law that allowed the Union to hire private companies to work on exploitation, production, refining and transportation of oil in Brazil.

Then the National Petroleum Agency was created, being in charge of regulation, charter and supervision of the activities in the sector. It was also created the National Council for Energy Policies, organization in charge of formulating the public energy policy.

In 2006, Petrobras reached a temporary level of self-sufficiency in oil, but as demand increased, it did not last very long.

Main Basins and Platforms

Santos Basin

The largest offshore sedimentary basin in Brazil, covering an area of 352,000 square kilometers, going from Cabo Frio (Rio de Janeiro state) to Florianópolis (Santa Catarina state). The pre-salt areas that have already been identified in the basin are: Tupi, Júpiter, Iara, Carioca, Bem-Te-Vi, Guará, Parati, Caramba and Azulão.

Campos Basin

This is the main sedimentary area already explored off the Brazilian coast. It goes from Vitoria (Espírito Santo state) to Arraial do Cabo (Rio de Janeiro state). In was in this "open-air laboratory" that major offshore technologies used to develop projects were tested.

One of the main innovations in these fields was the implementation of the first anticipated production system on a floating platform, reducing the lead time from four to six years to mere four months.

Espírito Santo Basin

This basin plays an important role in the natural gas supply. Offshore oil production began in 1978 in the Cação field, but natural gas discoveries made in Cangoá, Peroá and Canapu offshore fields were the main focus. The first light oil reserve on the the Espírito Santo continental shelf was discovered in 2002, in Golfinho field, which is nestled in deep waters.

Bahia Basins

The oil and gas produced in the Bahia basins are far from exhausted. The volume remaining in the reservoirs is still bigger than the accumulated production there since the 1940's. The challenge working with very old fields is to constantly find new technologies to improve recovery and extend field useful life to the maximum possible extent.

Petrobras currently explores, develops and produces oil and gas concessions located in sedimentary Tucano, Recôncavo (onshore), Camamu-Almada, and Jequitinhonha (offshore) basins.

Sergipe and Alagoas Basin

This is where the first technologies later used in the offshore fields were tested. It was in the Guaricema field that the continental shelf was produced for the first time. Another highlight is the Carmópolis field, which has the largest volume of reserves in Brazil and was the first to be discovered in the Sergipe-Alagoas sedimentary basin, back in 1963.

The production in the state of Alagoas – especially of gas - is basically onshore. The only offshore field of the basin located in this state is Corupá.

Potiguar Basin

With onshore fields and offshore fields in shallow waters, the Rio Grande do Norte and Ceará region is the biggest onshore oil producer in Brazil. Petrobras operates in Rio Grande do Norte since 1951 and the first discovered field was Ubarana, off the Guamaré coast and in operation since 1976. Petrobras's activities in Ceará began in 1967 and the first field, Xaréu, was discovered in 1977.

Solimões Basin

This is where the largest proven reserves of natural gas in Brazil are located. It is also the one that produces the best light oil in the market. The challenge here is to explore and produce oil safely when being located in the middle of the Amazon forest.

Besides the basins, Petrobras also has platforms, pipelines, refineries, terminals, thermoelectric and biodiesel plants. They are mostly concentrated on the coast, especially in the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Bahia. Gas reserves are mostly concentrated on the Northeast. Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Santa Catarina, in the south part of Brazil, are the three states that concentrate the higher number of terminals (16 in total).

Petrobras in Numbers

In 2006, Petrobras entered the group of companies whose market value surpasses USD 100 billion. It was the most profitable Latin American company for the first 9 months of 2007, the same year when it was ranked by the Reputation Institute as the 8th most respectable company in the world.

Petrobras' shares grew 1200% in 10 years (between 1997 and 2007) and in 2006, the company achieved a record profit of BRL 25,9 billion, becoming the 8th most important oil company in the world. After announcing the discovery of a new oil reserve named Tupi, its international market value jumped BRL 48,3 billion, adding up to BRL 385,1 billion, granting Petrobras the 6th position among the major companies in the US, being placed ahead of giants such as Google and Cisco Systems.

In 2008 Petrobras surpassed Microsoft and became the third company in the American continent in market value and the third most profitable company of continent. In 2011, Petrobras broke two other records: the first one was its net profit, that reached BRL 10,94 billion in the second quarter of the year; the other one was the BRL 21,9 billion on the first semester of 2011.

Public Image and Social Contribution

In 2009 Petrobras was listed among the ten most valuable brands in Brazil on a ranking made by BrandAnalytics / Milward Brown consultancy group. The Reputation Institute also ranks Petrobras as the company with the best reputation in Brazil and in the energy sector companies worldwide.

Petrobras is acknowledged as the company that most supports culture in Brazil, especially in the film industry, investing in actions aimed at production, dissemination and circulation of cultural assets.

Petrobras Cultural is the biggest sponsorship program in Brazil. The last edition of the program - created in 2003 -earmarked BRL 42 million for public project selections. Also, Petrobras played an important role in Formula 1 when high-tech gasoline designed to optimized engine performance was used.

Other Related Articles