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Fostering new skills
Some 5,000 people working on three continents helped develop the Parque das Conchas project. It is the first project in Brazil that Shell has taken from exploration through to production in its 96-year history in the country. On the way, the company has trained new Brazilian engineers.
Brazil is a relatively new oil-producing country for Shell. Shell has been marketing oil products there since 1913 and today has significant downstream operations through its Raízen joint venture. It was the first integrated oil company to discover oil and gas in Brazil in the 1970s. Since liberalisation of the market in 1998, Shell Brasil’s exploration business has increased rapidly.
Shell Brasil has trained young Brazilian engineers who will sustain it through its current growth and into the future. “What we’ve been able to do here is for every senior engineer, bring in a junior Brazilian engineer, who will be here for the longer term,” says Lee Stockwell, former Senior Petrophysical engineer in the sub-surface team.
The training programme has brought career development opportunities to young engineers like Katharine Sandler. She started her Shell career as an intern in the sub-surface team and graduated in civil engineering on the eve of Shell’s decision to invest in the Parque das Conchas project — then known as BC-10. She is now a petrophysicist in the team. “There is a real need to develop expertise in the oil industry in Brazil,” she says. “BC-10 is my professional school, like a brother to me. We have grown up together, through every step.”
There is a strong need to attract technical talent, especially petroleum engineers, essential to the rapid local development of the energy industry today. Shell’s long presence, recent successes in exploration and production and new prospects place it in a good position to recruit the right people.
New prospects in Brazilian fields
Production started at Parque das Conchas in early July 2009. Shell has been producing from Brazil’s offshore Bijupirá and Salema fields since 2003 and has now produced close to 100 million boe from these fields. In total we are present in seven exploration and production areas in Brazil.
Stephen Whyte, former Vice President Shell Brasil Exploration & Production, talks about new prospects in Brazilian fields that lie under a layer of salt a kilometre or more thick (2009).
Discoveries of resources in Brazil were among the top 10 largest in the world in 2008, according to Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA). CERA says that early estimates put the discoveries at more than 50 billion barrels in total.
However, unlike at Parque das Conchas, almost all the oil in these newly-discovered fields lay beneath thick layers of salt. The salt distorts seismic imaging, making it harder to pinpoint where to drill. In other fields Shell uses technology to correct the distortion, making images more accurate: some 10% of Shell’s production comes from “pre-salt” reservoirs in the Gulf of Mexico, Groningen in the Netherlands and Oman, with a track record of high recovery rates.