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Brazil agency nears decision amid Petrobras pressure to explore offshore Equatorial Margin

By Thomson Reuters Jun 19, 2024 | 6:48 PM

BRASILIA/RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – The head of Brazil’s environmental agency said on Wednesday that he expects a decision soon on state-owned oil company Petrobras’ request to conduct exploratory studies in a region known as the Equatorial Margin, as both the company and the government push for a drilling license.

Petrobras has been seeking to explore the northernmost part of the Equatorial Margin, near the mouth of the Amazon River, but got a red light from environment watchdog Ibama in May of last year due to concerns over the possible impact on Indigenous communities and the environment. Since then, Petrobras has been waiting for the agency to rule on an appeal.

“Ibama and Petrobras teams are talking,” Ibama president Rodrigo Agostinho said during an interview to CNN Brasil.

Petrobras’ new chief executive, Madga Chambriard, said on Wednesday that new oil frontiers such as the Equatorial Margin are key to the company. At a ceremony to formally install her as CEO, she called for environmental safety on their exploration.

Brazil’s energy minister Alexandre Silveira said during Chambriard’s installation that the government intends to work with Petrobras and Ibama to build an “environmentally safe” path for the exploration to proceed.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has also been supportive of Petrobras’ push to explore the region, saying the country cannot give up such an opportunity.

Chambriard said that she is open to talking to Environment minister Marina Silva about the subject, but said that Petrobras has fulfilled all environmental requests made by Ibama. Last month, Ibama demanded further studies relating to the possible impact on Indigenous peoples living in Oiapoque, the town nearest to the site of the proposed offshore drilling. A week later, Petrobras said it would not do the studies.

The offshore region is seen as Brazil’s most promising frontier for oil exploration as it shares similar geology with nearby Guyana, where Exxon Mobil is developing huge fields.

(Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello in Brasilia and Fabio Teixeira, Rodrigo Viga Gaier in Rio de Janeiro; Writing by Luana Maria Benedito; Editing by Kylie Madry and Nick Zieminski)