Everything you need to know about pre-salt

Called a “winning ticket” and a “passport to the future,” pre-salt is among the most important discoveries around the world in the last decade and puts Brazil in a strategic position in the face of the world’s high energy demand. Forming one of the various rock layers of the marine subsoil, it is an area of oil reserves that lies under a deep layer of salt and is called pre-salt, due to the geological time scale, that is, the time of oil formation.


However, your access is not that easy. There are several obstacles to reach the reserve: The depth at which it lies (more than 7,000 meters); salt, which at three or four thousand meters deep behaves like a viscous and unstable material; requires a high cost for the development of technologies and complexity of access; the oil boils inside the rocks and it must be kept warm, because the drop in temperature induces the formation of clots that clog the ducts.


Despite this, pre-salt is considered different from the others because it is light and low density. Other than that, it can conserve the quality of oil, which makes it much easier to be refined, as well as producing more fine derivatives. Another important factor is that it has less sulfur, so it pollutes less and is more valued in world trade.

In the economic sector, it is estimated that it has between 70 and 100 billion barrels of oil and mineral natural gas equivalent, which can bring a great profit to the country, generating wealth, jobs and greater political power to Brazil.


Today, Petrobras is primarily responsible for the exploration of the pre-salt layer in Brazil. But that doesn’t mean the company has possession of the oil found. Under Brazilian law, the Union owns the mineral reserves found in Brazilian soil or subsoil. In view of this, it is the company that can grant companies the right to extract these mineral assets in exchange for payments – the so-called onerous assignment contract.

The legal framework (law 12,351), which defined Petrobras as the sole operator in 2010, also defined the sharing regime as a way of exploiting pre-salt reserves and created Pre-salt Petróleo (PPSA) to administer exploration contracts. 

Under the sharing regime, the pre-salt fields are auctioned and the contracted companies (the winners of the auction) must pay the Union the right to exploit the oil (known as signing bonuses), in addition to making a transfer of a portion of the future production.


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