'Crown Jewel' Rig Will Go Ultra-Deep for New Oil
CNBC Chief International Correspondent
In the scenic resort town of Angra dos Reis in Brazil, Petrobras is nearing completion of its latest oil platform, the massive P-56.
When it is moved out to sea in May, it will produce 100,000 barrels of oil per day.
P-56 is the crown jewel of platforms for Petrobras in technology and in comfort for workers.
“This is my baby,” engineer and project manager Carlos Travassos tells CNBC.
He has spent the last 43 months overseeing the platform's construction, which has used 47,000 tons of steel, at a total cost of more than $1.5 billion.
Travassos says, “This is really the first unit to be built 100% in Brazil. Every single piece of this unit was built here, so this is the reason to be very, very proud of this unit.”
The platform will be brought nearly 75 miles off shore to the Campos basin. There it will be anchored at a depth of just over one mile. The entire process of moving it will take six days, according to Travassos.
Once it is in place, 200 workers will live on P-56 for 15 days at a time. It is literally a floating city.
“We have telephones, movies, playrooms, video games,” says Paulo Felipe Pimenta, a communications advisor for Petrobras.
The platform will also have large bedrooms, an industrial kitchen and restaurant, a movie theater, swimming pool and even a soccer field.
Comfortable living for the workers of Petrobras — a company whose stock has long been a darling of American money managers looking to capture Brazil’s growth and the rising cost of energy at the same time.
But recently some cracks have emerged in the investment thesis.
Renowned hedge fund manager Jim Chanos recently told CNBC he is shorting, or betting against, Petrobras. He sees Petrobras expanding very quickly and "we don't think we're seeing an economic return with the risks they are taking.”
Petrobras plans to spend a staggering $224 billion in the next five years to drill even farther offshore and even deeper under the sea — more than 200 miles away and more than three miles below the earth’s surface — after a huge new discovery with 50 million to 100 billion barrels of untapped petroleum.
John Kilduff, founding partner of Again Capital, says, “There are huge challenges to get into this ultra-deep water, ultra-deep depth, but it's doable and the company has experience with it. I have to say each of these ultra-deepwater, ultra-deep earth extractions of oil represent an equivalent of a moon shot.“
Petrobras' project manager Carlos Travasso says, bring it on.
When asked if there are any other companies in the world that are as good as Petrobras in deep-water drilling he says, “I don't think so, I don't believe that.”
The P-56 is certainly technologically advanced, but it is also incredibly expensive.
Whether or not it pays off for Petrobras' shareholders remains to be seen.
Justin Solomon contributed to this report.
Watch our special coverage, "Access Brazil," Monday-Thursday, April 25-28. On Wednesday, April 27, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera reports on the Petrobras P-56 platform and shows you how it's being prepared for the massive exploration project. Look for her reports on Squawk On The Street, 9-11am ET, Power Lunch, 1-2pm ET and Closing Bell, 3-5pm ET on CNBC.