Meeting sustainable development and energy transition goals set by North American and European countries can be a challenge for developing nations who are working to build their economies and meet energy demand, and who often have very different carbon footprints than those who set the standards.
Such is the case for Brazil, the largest economy in South America, and the fifth largest country in the world. Home to a growing population, massive pre-salt reservoirs and the Amazon rainforest, Brazil is an ideal setting for addressing the dual priorities of developing a healthy energy sector while protecting the environment.
Balancing energy security and the energy transition were key topics discussed at “The Importance of E&P During the Energy Transition,” Geoscience Technology Workshop organized by the AAPG’s Latin America and Caribbean Region and the Brazilian Association of Petroleum Geologists (ABGP) in Rio de Janeiro last month.
The two-day event drew attendees representing 46 companies and 12 countries and received sponsorship from Brazil national oil company Petrobras and nine international companies.
Defining the Energy Transition
GTW Brazil General Co-Chair Sylvia Anjos, ABGP director and current adviser to the Petrobras CEO, noted that “energy transition” is nothing new.
“The transition has been going on for a long time. We transitioned from wood, to coal, from coal to oil,” she said. “We can thank coal for saving our forests. We can thank oil for saving our lungs,” she said.
Anjos affirmed that adopting a new source of energy does not imply ceasing to use others.
“Instead of ‘energy transition,’ I prefer ‘energy addition,’” she said. “We have many energy sources available, and we need all of them.”
Anjos argued that, while Brazilian oil and gas companies should monitor emissions and work to reduce their carbon footprint, the global community should understand that not all countries should be measured equally.
Anjos also cited the Union of Concerned Scientists 2020 report that Brazil produces one percent of overall global emissions. The same report showed China emits 28 percent, the United States 15 percent and India 7 percent.
“Yes, we are top in the region in terms of emissions, but the magnitude is different,” she said.
Anjos also emphasized the importance of understanding regional differences related to CO2 levels.
She showed a graph illustrating that in Latin America and the Caribbean, like Africa, southeast Asia and the Pacific, where the CO2 emissions from land use, land use change and forestry more than double the emissions from fossil fuels and heavy industry.
Anjos argued that, instead of putting the entire burden on the oil and gas industry, governments should focus on land use and protecting forests.
She contended that in Brazil, energy per capita is too low and will require a mix of energy that includes a strong oil and gas component, which can not only provide energy security but also be a strong support to protect forest, reforestation and land use to drastically reduce CO2 emissions.
“What we really need to do is focus on deforestation,” she said. “Taking care of the Amazon forest and other threatened biomes has a much greater impact in helping the environment at the same time we provide the mix of energy the Brazilian population needs.”
Anjos concluded her remarks with her own formula.
“Energy transition plus energy addition equals energy security,” she said.
Government Commitment to Emission Reduction
Ronan Ávila, deputy superintendent of geological and economic assessment at the Brazilian National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP) echoed Anjos’s remarks in his keynote address.
“In order to avoid costly consequences for the energy transition and competitiveness, it is crucial to address deforestation and land use change emissions by 2040” he said. “Additionally, we need to find ways to address emissions from challenging sectors such as freight transport and industrial processes.”
He added that Brazil is committed to achieving net-zero emissions and reinforced its compromises recently.
In an April 2023 address to the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva highlighted Brazil’s commitment to zero deforestation by 2030, underscored investments in energy transition and asked developing countries to comply with climate finance agreements.
He promised to bring back the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation instituted during his first administration in 2003 and largely ignored by his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.
“We reduced deforestation in the Amazon by more than 80 percent over a decade, and we’ll do it again,” Lula said. “The damage to the environment caused by Brazil’s former government will be reversed. Our goal is zero deforestation.”
The Brazilian president shared plans to gather the leaders of all eight Amazon countries to promote a common agenda for the region, and he announced the Amazon City of Belém as a candidate to host the COP30 meetings in 2025.
Brazil’s Energy Mix
Ávila explained that, though Brazil is working actively on the energy transition, it is important to understand where the country stands in comparison to others.
To provide context, he projected a series of graphs illustrating data published by the country’s Ministry of Mines and Energy in 2022.
The report compared Brazilian energy consumption with consumption by member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the rest of the world in 2021.
While the percentage of fossil fuels in the world energy mix was 80.3 percent, the percentage of fossil fuels in the Brazilian energy mix was 54 percent.
The results are even more significant when viewing the percentage of fossil fuels in the electric mix. While the world average is 62.7 fossil fuels in electric mix, the average for Brazil is 19.7 percent.
The report showed Brazil’s electricity mix for 2021-22: 55.7 percent hydroelectric, 8.2 percent biomass, 17.4 percent wind and solar.
Finally, while the world average for biofuels in transportation was 1.3 percent, Brazil’s average is 22.6 percent.
"Currently, Brazil’s energy mix is undoubtedly one of the cleanest on a global scale,” Ávila said. We are clean, but and we are getting cleaner.”
While projecting a graph demonstrating Brazil’s contributions to global CO2 emissions, Ávila invited the audience to put the impact into perspective.
Between 1751 and 2017, the United States was responsible for 25 percent of global cumulative emissions, while the 28 countries of the European Union were responsible for 22 percent. South America generated three percent of global emissions, with Brazil responsible for less than one percent.
“We have common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities,” he said.
Ávila said in addition to meeting global targets for emissions reduction, Brazil also has an obligation to provide energy to a rapidly growing population.
He cited a 2022 report from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics showing that that Brazil’s population of 215 million people is expected to grow by 8 percent before 2050.
The projection suggests an increase of 18 million, which is equal to the population of Ecuador or more than five times the population of Uruguay.
“All those people will need energy,” he said, noting that continued investment in the oil and gas industry is crucial to not only to meet energy demand but also to provide economic opportunities for the population.
“Oil and gas play a crucial role in a vast supply chain, and Brazil’s reserves are expanding. This industry has a significant impact on the country’s financial and social development. Additionally, as Brazil’s population continues to grow, so does the demand for energy, which is projected to increase,” he said.
Ávila described how Brazil has been steadily growing its hydrocarbon production and spreading investments throughout the country, opening exploratory areas for fair competition. Traditional exploration and production activities in the pre-salt, conventional onshore and offshore plays.
A 2022 Ministry of Mines and Energy report forecasts a significant increase in future oil production, to 5.2 million barrels per day in 2031. This volume is considerably higher than 2021 average of 2.9 million. Natural gas is also forecast to increase from 134 million cubic meters per day in 2021 to 276 million.
Ávila reported that Brazil currently has 275 exploratory blocks (174 million square kilometers) under contract, with 120 of the blocks located offshore and 155 onshore.
Investments in the ANP’s 2022 Exploratory Work Program are projected to reach $1.433 million (U.S.) in 2023 and $1.439 million in 2025.
“The oil and gas sector is one of the pillars of the Brazilian economy, and drilling wells also contributes to extending reserves, generating jobs, and boosting technological development,” Ávila said.
Oil and Gas in the Energy Transition
Jonilton Pessoa, executive manager for exploration at Petrobras and honorary chair for GTW Brazil, addressed similar themes during his remarks.
“New projects are essential to guaranteeing the country’s enrgy security and sovereignty,” he said.
Pessoa outlined cycles in Petrobras’s E&P history: onshore, shallow water, deepwater, ultra-deepwater and pre-salt – and said that the next phase will be to explore the remaining potential of the pre-and post-salt, as well as the Sergipe-Alagoas Basin and new frontiers.
He emphasized the importance of data-driven exploration, a pillar of the company’s EXP100 program, which aims to reduce uncertainties through risk mitigation; enable projects with both environmental and economic resilience; address environmental, social and governance aspects; and instill a culture of technological leadership and energy transition/transformation.
He described the Petrobras strategy for successful projects, the effective combination of data, technology and human resources.
“To overcome challenges, we need to take care of our greatest asset … the people,” he said. “If you don’t have the geologist with the model in the mind you can’t solve the problem.”
Pessoa described the exploration department’s goal to develop a diverse, and qualified team that is prepared to meet current and future challenges, particularly those related to the energy transition.
The Role of CCUS
As Petrobras continues to develop its exploration and production capacity, the company is making major investment in emissions reductions technologies, including carbon capture use and storage.
The company is preparing a pilot project for CCS from industrial emissions and is looking to build partnerships for a full-scale CCS hub for the nation. The pilot project will store CO2 from a Petrobras-owned natural gas processing facility in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
The strategy is a shift for Petrobras, which to-date has limited its activities to carbon capture usage and storage directed to enhanced oil recovery in the pre-salt, where separated or unseparated carbon dioxide is reinjected to maintain reservoir pressure.
The GTW Brazil workshop in Rio included several presentations dedicated to CCUS, including one by Daiane Cardoso, researcher at the Institute of Petroleum and Natural Resources at PUCRS University in Porto Alegre.
Cardoso shared her current work on the GIS CCUS Brazil Platform, which integrates geographic information systems technology with CCUS data, providing a comprehensive and accessible resource for stakeholders in the industry.
“This project plays crucial role in addressing the challenges related to carbon capture, utilization, and storage in Brazil,” she said.
Cardoso’s talk was a part of a half-day workshop session dedicated to decarbonization strategies and technologies.
“This session stood out to me due to its relevance to the current energy landscape and its potential for shaping a sustainable future,” she said.
Sharing with Future Generations
Cardoso was one of several young geoscientists who took advantage of the opportunity to share research at the workshop.
Priscila Amaral, geologist at the Petrobras Research Center (CENPES), shared the results of her 2022 doctoral dissertation, which provided insight into the pre-salt dating of Brazilian basins and their impact on petroleum systems modeling.
She also participated as a panelist in a roundtable discussion open to all Brazilian students and young professionals immediately following the event.
“It’s always very gratifying to see the true energy (of human resources) that drives the energy of our industry,” she said.
Amaral shared several takeaways from the event.
“Artificial intelligence is nothing without the human factor; Technology should serve us, not the other way around; Working and learning from friends is always a lot of fun,” she said.
Example for Other Countries
Amaral said the workshop’s global audience reinforced the importance of the subject matter.
“The technical content of each lecture that was presented was so incredible that there were even people traveling from Kuwait to Rio just to be able to participate,” she said.
“I believe it has become clear to the entire audience that the energy transition will only be possible with the E&P industry as a catalyst, acting as a foundation for other ‘clean’ energies to become a reality in the cost-benefit sense,” she said.
Cardoso said that lessons learned in Brazil provide valuable lessons for other developing countries.
“Brazil serves as a valuable example for other countries on maintaining E&P capacity during the energy transition. Its dynamic economy has enabled Brazil to diversify its energy mix while sustaining a stable E&P sector. The country’s diverse geological basins offer ample exploration opportunities, allowing for strategic development of energy resources alongside renewable projects,” she said.
“Additionally, Brazil’s significant potential for greenhouse gas storage, particularly through CCUS technologies, presents an important avenue for reducing emissions while preserving E&P capacity. By drawing from Brazil’s experiences, other nations can learn to strike a balance between energy transition goals and maintaining E&P capabilities.”
Last month’s workshop was the first of a series of technical events to be held in Rio de Janeiro.
The first AAPG, Society of Petroleum Engineers and Society of Exploration Geophysicists’ Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage conference focused on Latin America will take place in May 2024, and AAPG’s International Conference and Exhibition will be held in September 2025.
Victor Vega, general co-chair for GTW Brazil and general vice-chair for ICE Rio 2025, said Brazil provides the perfect environment for large technical activities like CCUS and ICE.
“Brazil is leading the way, in traditional E&P activities, as well as for the energy transition, which is not possible without a strong E&P sector. Petrobras understands the importance of investing in research and technology and focusing on energy addition, not just energy transition, and we think that other companies will be interested in coming to learn from them,” he said.
Vega said he looks forward to having an AAPG ICE event in Brazil for the first time since 2009.
“We have received strong support from Petrobras, ANP and Pre-Sal Petroleo, as well as from international and Brazilian operators,” he said. “We look forward to having a robust program, both on the technical and business development fronts, as well as activities for students and young professionals. And Rio is a great destination, so we look forward to inviting people to enjoy the science and the city.”
Learn more about CCUS Latin America https://ccusevent.org/latinamerica/2024
For information about ICE Rio 2025 visit rio2025.iceevent.org.