Petrobras’ deepwater Marlim Field has led the Brazilian company to pioneer of technology development—first from its 1985 discovery and again with its recent revitalization project.

“In ‘85 when the Marlim Field was discovered, there were no commercial solutions for producing oil in the deepwaters. Petrobras had to lead the development of much of the deepwater technologies that now we take for granted,” said Paulo Marinho Neto, deepwater executive manager at Petrobras. Neto spoke during a May 6 keynote at the 2024 Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston.

Petrobras advanced technologies including subsea trees, FPSOs, polyester mooring, deepwater flow assurance and well control procedures, subsea separation systems and more.

In 1991, Petrobras started production from the Marlim Field, which is in water depths of around 2,100 ft to 3,400 ft in the Campos Basin offshore Brazil. About 15 years later, the company began infill drilling. Over the years, nine production units were added to the giant field, home to 326 wells. 

The field has produced more than 2.9 Bboe. It also was a “huge water producer,” Mariana Cavassin, executive manager at Petrobras, said.

In recent years, Petrobras determined Marlim still had a lot of production potential. But to recover resources, a revamp of the production strategy was needed to cope with the high water production and H2S content. In 2019, Petrobras sanctioned the Marlim revitalization project, extending the concession through 2048, decommissioning the nine existing production facilities and installing two new FPSOs.

There were revitalization naysayers at the time, she said, but it was the company’s mission to extract the field’s remaining oil.

The objective of the revitalization project, Cavassin said, was to extend the field’s productive life through 2048 and produce 860 MMboe while reducing operational costs and CO2 emissions. The approach called for decommissioning five FPSOs and four production semisubmersibles and replacing them with two FPSOs. Additionally, eight large subsea installations were decommissioned and replaced with 15 production and injection manifolds. About 1,200 km of flexible pipes and umbilicals were decommissioned and replaced with 700 km of pipe and umbilicals. Ninety wells were plugged and abandoned, leaving a total of 708 new and relocated wells.

The effort also reduced CO2 emissions from 1,520 kilotons/year to 700 kilotons/year — a 55% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions from platforms. 

Cavassin said production in the mature basin means “constantly facing new challenges to increase recovery” that require innovative and breakthrough technologies.

Neto said the Campos Basin in general and the Marlim Field in particular pose challenges.

“This requires special treatment, it needs to be managed differently than newer fields. In conclusion, it needs a specific business model for brown fields,” he said. 

The Campos Basin has both turbidites and carbonates. The fluid averages 17 API and viscosity of 30, while the rock averages 19% porosity with an average permeability of 1,176 millidarcy.

Increasing the lifetime of field equipment is one strategy for improving oil recovery.

“This is always the first option,” Neto said.

Petrobras was able to extend the life of six production units by about 14 years each to add 500 MMboe of production.

The company also extended the life of subsea equipment by reusing items where possible, such as flexible pipes and 70% of the subsea trees.

“It’s been used as a way to generate flexibility,” Neto said.

But new technology was needed to help make the revitalization project cost-efficient.

One such enabler is the True-One-Trip 3 Phases (TOT-3P) technology that reduced average well construction time to 58 days from 101, resulting in a 53% reduction in well costs, Cavassin said.

Petrobras' Pioneering Tech Powers Decades-long Production
The Anna Nery FPSO started production last May as part of Petrobras’ Marlim and Voador fields' revitalization project. (Source: Petrobras)

Petrobras also optimized well configuration for post-salt formations. The result: six of Petrobras’ fastest 10-well construction times are in the Marlim Field, and the other four are also in the Campos Basin. Those wells took 35 days to 46 days, she said.

In 2023, the Anna Nery FPSO and the Anita Garibaldi FPSO both entered production in the Marlim Field. This year, Petrobras received OTC’s Distinguished Achievement Award 2024 for its contribution to the Campos Basin renewal program, which represents the largest recovery project for mature deepwater assets in the world.

Thinking about the future of the Campos Basin, Cavassin sees “so many projects to do.”

Petrobras expects to bring three operated units and one non-operated unit online from 2025 through 2028. The company plans to invest $22 billion into the basin between 2024 and 2028, she said.