Spotlight: Petrobras’ Comperj complex

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, December 19, 2019
Spotlight: Petrobras’ Comperj complex

Brazil's state oil company Petrobras is changing plans for its Comperj petrochemical complex in Rio de Janeiro state as studies concluded a partnership with Chinese CNPC to build the 165,000b/d oil refinery in the area was not feasible.

More feasible options emerged including a thermopower plant in the project and some lubricant production units integrating with the Reduc refinery. The plant could be fueled by natural gas produced in pre-salt fields. Both projects, however, depend on partnerships, as Petrobras has slashed its downstream investments to focus on pre-salt exploration and production.

Currently, works at Comperj include the construction of the Rota 3 pipeline, which will connect Santos basin fields to a 21Mm3/d natural gas processing unit (UPGN) within the complex.

The expectation is that other companies in the pre-salt fields, such as Shell, Equinor and Total, become interested in participating in the thermopower plant development, as they are also seeking solutions for the gas they will produce in the basin.

Norway's Equinor and Petrobras, for example, have already signed a memorandum of understanding which includes studies for natural gas projects at Comperj. The Brazilian company had already shown interest in developing new thermopower plants and could include the project in the upcoming 2020 energy generation tenders.

Chinese companies also seem interested as, apart from CNPC, Shandong Kerui group has been participating, too. Shandong formed a consortium with local firm Método Potencial and is now responsible for building the UPGN.


Comperj has a long history of issues, though. Construction began in 2008 and the original start-up date was set for 2013. But environmental licensing issues, strikes and expropriation processes for transporting special equipment caused several delays. Works were halted in October 2015 after Lava Jato anti-corruption investigators found Iesa and Queiroz Galvão paid bribes to win the construction tender.

Moreover, investigations also pointed out that former Rio de Janeiro governor Sérgio Cabral took at least 2.7mn reais (US$800,000) in bribes from constructor Andrade Gutierrez in return for lucrative Comperj contracts. And Petrobras director Paulo Roberto Costa who led the project is now in jail.

Works for the processing unit restarted this year and are due to be completed by 2021. Original plans also included the construction of a second refinery, which has been scrapped.

The entire complex was originally set to complete in December 2013, but Petrobras has not provided completion estimates since 2016. Costs were estimated at US$6.5bn. Yet, three years ago, when the company last provided an update, the figure was US$48bn already.

Comperj was planned to help reduce Brazil's rising dependence on oil derivative imports, which could reach 1.20Mb/d by 2030. However, as both refineries that were supposed to become part of the complex have been canceled, Comperj is now more likely to turn into a logistics solution for the natural gas produced in pre-salt areas.

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