(Argus, 28.May.2020) — Brazil’s state-controlled Petrobras is opening its natural gas-processing plants to third parties, another step toward opening the country’s gas market to greater competition.
Petrobras has started offering gas-processing capacity to current producers, and will offer capacity to other interested parties in a future phase, the company said late yesterday.
The firm has 10 gas processing plants with 90mn m³/d of installed capacity across eight states. The two largest plants are 25.16mn m³/d Cabiunas in Rio de Janeiro state and 20mn m³/d Caraguatatuba in Sao Paulo state. Both plants draw feedstock from offshore fields in the pre-salt-rich Campos and Santos basins.
Petrobras is also building a new gas processing unit at the former site of the abandoned Comperj refinery project, which includes the 355km (220mi) Rota 3 subsea gas pipeline and a 21mn m³/d gas treatment plant. Construction of the treatment plant was put on hold in April because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Because of its ownership of gas-processing infrastructure, Petrobras is the main buyer of third-party gas in Brazil. This means that foreign companies including Shell, Galp, Repsol, Total and Equinor are forced to sell their production to Petrobras, rather than on the open market.
Under the new model, these producers will be able to contract processing capacity and negotiate directly with potential clients. This will give distributors and large consumers additional gas-supply options.
The opening of the gas plants is another step by Petrobras toward complying with a July 2019 agreement with anti-trust regulator Cade to exit the gas transport and distribution business by 31 December 2021.
In March, Petrobras signed an agreement with its Bolivian counterpart YPFB to reduce its pipeline gas offtake to 20mn m³/d, clearing the way for the Bolivian company to sign contracts directly with clients in Brazil.
Petrobras has also initiated the sale of its 51pc stake in gas distribution holding company Gaspetro, and is pre-qualifying bidders to lease its 20mn m3/d Bahia regasification terminal and integrated pipeline.