At a time when good news seems scarce, ExxonMobil and partners Hess and Petrobras have very good news indeed -- a find near the prolific Sugarloaf structure offshore Brazil that might yield as much as 10 billion barrels of recoverable reserves. Already the structure's northern flanks have hosted Petrbras discoveries such as Carioca, Bem-te-Vi, Caramba, and Guara. The new find, named Azulao, is in Block BM-S-22 in the Santos Basin and is considered to be on the southern flank of the Sugarloaf structure. It's also being touted as possibly "the biggest yet" in this emerging province. The partners are using the Seadrill-owned drillship West Polaris to drill the prosepct, located in about 7,294 ft (2,223 m) of water. They plan to drill back-to-back wells on the block, locating the wildcats nearer to the top of the structure to test the theory of a contiguous reservoir of light oil and gas. Final results on Azulao are expected early this year. The block covers about 1,069 sq miles (2,769 sq km) and is about 205 miles (330 km) from Rio de Janeiro. Water depths range from 6,889 to 7,874 ft (2,100 to 2,400 m). ExxonMobil operates the block with a 40% stake. Hess also has 40%, and Petrobras has the remaining 20%. According to a Bloomberg report about a note Neil McMahon, an analyst with Sandford C. Bernstein & Co., sent to his clients earlier this month, this discovery has the potential to be "the most signficant wildcat exploration well in ExxonMobil's portfolio. The company is going back to basics with a renewed focus on exploration." The article adds that the block is one of 13 wildcat exploration projects that the company is drilling or is scheduled to begin worldwide. Despite this good news, all three companies' stock prices dropped. I guess this exemplifies the saying, "No good deed goes unpunished." I for one am thrilled to see a huge company like ExxonMobil focusing on wildcat exploration. The comapny, like most majors, is flush with cash and uncertain about the future. But instead of hunkering down and riding out the storm, it's embarking on a worldwide rank exploration plan that has "risk" written all over it. Way to go, guys.
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