Brazilian state-controlled oil and gas multinational Petrobras plans on investing more than 1 billion Brazilian reais (US$ 534 million) in universities and research institutes from 2009 to 2011. This in order to turn the Brazilian technology industry into one of the best equipped in the world in the energy sector.
Partnership agreements will enable the implementation of 250 cutting-edge laboratories.
From 2006 to 2008, the company spent approximately 790 million Brazilian reais (US$ 421 million) on building and redoing laboratories, by means of partnerships with academic and research institutions in different states of Brazil. In 2008 alone, 440 million reais (US$ 235 million) were invested in the segment.
Since the passing of the Petroleum Act, in 1997, which added a clause to contracts between concession-holders and the National Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuel Agency (ANP) providing for mandatory investment in Research & Development (R&D), partnerships between Petrobras and the Brazilian technology cluster have increased significantly.
Set in 2005, the clause stipulates that at least 1% of gross revenues from oil fields in which Special Participation is due must be invested in R&D. Out of that figure, 50% must go to national science and technology institutions.
Since then, 38 thematic networks have been created, and the most competent national institutions in their own segments have been invited to them. According to Petrobras, the networks include themes such as an increase in production of heavy oil, research for new materials for the refining process and nanotechnology applied to the energy industry for the development of bioproducts.
During the phase of implementation of networks and nuclei, approximately 80% of the projects consist of investment in infrastructure – construction of premises and installation of equipment. The agreements that have already been signed for the building or redoing of units are going to result in implementation of 250 cutting-edge laboratories across the country, totalling over 250,000 square metres of built area.
Petrobras informed that some of the laboratories built and equipped under this large program have already been inaugurated, among them the Laboratory of Non-Destructive Testing, Corrosion and Soldering (LNDC), of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), located in campus Cidade Universitária at Ilha do Fundão, in Rio, inaugurated on April 30th this year.
The company believes that the laboratory is going to play a "key role in research for production in the pre-salt layer." This laboratory alone received investment of around 20 million reais (US$ 10 million), making it one of the most advanced in the world for corrosion testing and materials inspection.
The executive manager of the Petrobras Research Center (Cenpes), Carlos Tadeu, explains that one example of this type of partnership is the oceanic tank at the UFRJ, which was built before the concept of thematic networks was created, but follows the same principle.
"To do testing in tanks of this size, we used to have to go to Japan or Norway. Now, the tests can be conducted right here in Brazil. With the thematic networks, we are replicating similar examples throughout the whole country," he said.
According to Tadeu, Brazil is currently on the same level as other countries that build platforms and all sorts of premises and equipment for the oil industry.