Petrobras, the Brazilian state-controlled oil and gas multinational, made headlines last November when it discovered a deposit with estimated reserves of 5 to 8 billion barrels, the world's second-biggest discovery in 20 years. The find could make Brazil one of the top 10 producers in the world, Petrobras said.
Since then the Brazilian political establishment and military officers have raised concerns that other countries could possibly challenge Brazil's sovereignty over the reserves.
Now, Brazil announced this Friday, August 15, that it will hold military exercises next month to show its capability of defending these new offshore oil reserves that could convert the country into a global energy player.
"We don't have a likely challenger or enemy. Within a modern view of planning, you send a signal to the international community – I am prepared" said Admiral Edlander Santos, who will command the maneuvers.
Interviewed by Reuters the admiral said "it's an important sign because it prevents people from turning into possible challengers,"
Admiral Santos downplayed the reestablishment of the United States Fourth Fleet 58 years after the US Navy had decommissioned it. The Fourth Fleet is to help combat drug trafficking and offer humanitarian relief in Latin America and the Caribbean.
US has said it would respect Brazil's territorial seas and exclusive economic zones, which include the oil reserves.
As part of Operation Atlantic exercise on September 12-26, the Brazilian armed forces will simulate an attack by a fictitious enemy on oil drilling facilities such as platforms and pipelines in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Espírito Santo states and off shore
The US$ 12.3 million exercise will include 20 ships, several submarines, 9,000 troops and as many as 50 aircraft. "It's not an expense, it's an investment," Santos said. "It's like house insurance. The cost is cheap compared to the need to protect our sovereignty."
By 2017 Petrobras plans to have 63 drilling rigs in deep and ultra-deep waters, which are double the amount it currently has in operation, revealed Petrobras' CFO, Almir Barbassa in a recent shareholders meeting. The corporation's oil and gas production stands at 2,175,000 bpd; 1,846,000 bpd of derivatives plus a 6% increase in natural gas production.
Operation Atlantic will also give an idea of the growing list of new equipment Brazil's military will need to defend its offshore resources, its main defense priority along with a porous border in the Amazon jungle.
Brazil already was building two and ordering five more of the 27 new patrol ships it needed to defend the offshore oil industry, said Admiral Santos.
As part of a broader program to upgrade its armed forces, Brazil forged a strategic defense alliance with France to build a nuclear-powered submarine and 50 military helicopters.