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Not to be confused with Malaysian gas company Petronas.
Petróleo Brasileiro S.A.
Type Sociedade Anônima
Traded as
Industry Oil and gas
Founded 3 October 1953 (61 years)
Headquarters Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil
Area served Worldwide
Key people Maria das Graças Foster (CEO)[1][2]
Almir Guilherme Barbassa (CFO)
Products Petroleum and its derivatives,natural gas, lubricant,petrochemical, fertilizer, biofuel
Revenue Increase US$ 130.0 billion (2013)[3]
Net income Increase US$ 10.0 billion (2013)[3]
Owners Brazilian Government (64 percent)[4]
Employees 80,497 (2010)[3]
Subsidiaries Petrobras Distribuidora, Transpetro,Petrobras Argentina, Braskemamong others.[5]

Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. or Petrobras (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˌpɛtɾoˈbɾas]) is a semi-public[6] Brazilianmultinational energy corporation headquartered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is the largest company in the Southern Hemisphere by market capitalization and the largest in Latin America measured by 2011 revenues.[7][8][9]

Petrobras was founded in 1953. While the company ceased to be Brazil’s legal monopolist in the oil industry in 1997, it remains a significant oil producer, with output of more than 2 million barrels (320,000 m3) of oil equivalent per day. The company owns oil refineries, oil tankers, and is a major distributor of oil products. Petrobras is a world leader in development of advanced technology from deep-water and ultra-deep water oil production.[10][11]

In September 2010, Petrobras conducted the largest share sale in history, when US$72.8 billion worth of shares in the company were sold on the BM&F Bovespa stock exchange.[12][13] Upon the sale, Petrobras immediately became the fourth-largest company in the world measured by market capitalisation.[13][14][


Petrobras headquarters in downtown Rio de Janeiro.

Petrobras controls significant oil and energy assets in 18 countries in Africa, North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. These holdings as well as properties in Brazil give it total assets of $137.3 billion (2012). Petrobras is Latin America’s largest company with 2008 sales of $118.3 billion, according to a ranking from Latin Business Chronicle over Latin America’s Top 500 Companies. The Brazilian government directly owns 54 percent of Petrobras’ common shares with voting rights, while the Brazilian Development Bank and Brazil’s Sovereign Wealth Fund (Fundo Soberano) each control 5 percent, bringing the State’s direct and indirect ownership to 64 percent.[16] The privately held shares are traded on BM&F Bovespa, where they are part of the Ibovespa index.

Petrobras began processing oil shale in 1953, developing Petrosix technology for extracting oil from oil shale. An industrial size retort began processing shale in the 1990s.[17] In 2006, Petrobras claimed that this industrial retort had a design capacity to process 260 tonnes/hour of oil shale.[18] Petrobras operated the world’s largest oil platform — the Petrobras 36 Oil Platform – until an explosion on 15 March 2001 led to its sinking on 20 March 2001. P-36 was replaced by FPSO-Brasil. In 2007, Petrobras inaugurated the Petrobras 52 Oil Platform. The 52 is the biggest Brazilian oil platform and third in the world.[19]

Petrobras is also recognized as the largest sponsor of arts, culture, and environmental protection in Brazil. Among the environmental initiatives, Petrobras is the main supporter of whale conservation and research through the Brazilian Right Whale Project[20] and the Instituto Baleia Jubarte (Brazilian Humpback Whale Institute).[21] Petrobras has been a sponsor of the Williams Formula-1 team. The company employs the H-Bio process to produce biodiesel.[22]

According to Forbes, as of April 2011, Petrobras is the 8th largest company in the world.[23]


Petrobras standard model for its land oil pump, popularly known as Wooden Horse (Cavalo de Pau in Portuguese) in UFRN, Natal, Brazil.

Skyscraper hosting Petrobras’ offices in Paulista Avenue, São Paulo.

Petrobras was created in 1953 during the government of Brazilian president Getúlio Vargas, with the support of both the ruling parties and the opposition alike in Congress. However, with the creation of a new government the following year, opposition from the government emerged to Petrobras.

Petrobras commenced its activities with the collection it inherited from the old National Oil Council (pt) (Conselho Nacional do Petróleo, CNP), which, however, preserved its inspection function for the sector.

The oil exploration and production operations, as well as the remaining activities connected to the oil, natural gas, and derivative sector, except for wholesale distribution and retail via service stations, were a monopoly Petrobras held from 1954 to 1997. Early on, in 1961, it was hurt by a pessimistic government report concerning oil prospects in Brazil. Two years after the report’s release, Petrobras created its research center Cenpes.

Unfortunately, only ten years later, the company’s period of growth was halted by the 1973 oil crisis. The entire country was affected, and the “Brazilian miracle”, a period of rapid growth in the economy ended. Petrobras itself nearly went bankrupt. But, then, a year later, the company discovered an oil field in Bacia de Campos. This discovery boosted its finances and helped it restructure nationwide. In 1975, Petrobras signed contracts partnering with private oil contracts concerning exploration for more oilfields in Brazil. The company was also affected by the 1979 energy crisis, but not as bad as in 1973.

During this period, Petrobras became the leader in derivative marketing in Brazil, and, thanks to the company’s performance, it was awarded the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in 1992, one which it was granted again in 2001.[24]

After 40 years of exploration, production, refining, and transportation of Brazil’s oil, Petrobras started to compete with other foreign and domestic companies in 1997 when the government approved Law N.9.478. This law broke Petrobras’s monopoly and allowed for competitors to develop Brazil’s oilfields. The Brazilian government also created the National Petroleum Agency (Agência Nacional do Petróleo, ANP), responsible for the regulation and supervision of activities in the petroleum industry, and the National Council of Energy Policies, a public agency responsible for the development of public energy policy. That same year, Petrobras reached the mark of producing 1 million barrels (160,000 m3) per day. The company also executed agreements with other Latin American governments and began operations outside of Brazilian domains.

In 2000, Petrobras achieved a world record for oil exploration in deep waters. The exploration reached a depth of 1,877 metres (6,158 ft) below sea level. The following year, an accident at the P-36 Platform, the world’s largest oil platform, caused it sink on March 20. Petrobras lost about 1,500 tons of oil from this one accident alone.

In 2003, commemorating its 50 years, Petrobras doubled its daily production of oil and natural gas, surpassing the mark of 2 million barrels (320,000 m3). That same year, it acquired the Argentine company Perez Companc Energía (PECOM Energía S.A.). This acquisition also included bases in Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay. Two years later, on December 19, 2005, Petrobras announced a contract with the Japanese Nippon Alcohol Hanbai to launch a joint-venture. The project, namedBrazil-Japan Ethanol, would import ethanol from Brazil, in a bid to develop an ethanol market in Japan.

On April 21, 2006, the company started production on the P-50 oil platform, in the Albacora East Field at Campos Basin, which gave Brazil self-sufficiency in oil production.[25] The following year, the Tupi oil field in the Santos Basin was discovered. This field could possibly be the world’s largest. In 2008, Petrobras announced the discovery of the Jupiter field, off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.

The following year, Petrobras discovered what is possibly the world’s third largest oil field in the State of São Paulo. However, no evidence has been shown for this so far. In 2009, Petrobras announced a market capitalization plan to finance its future investments in ultra-deep oil exploration. The share offering in the BM&F Bovespa Stock Exchange took place in September 2010, becoming the largest market capitalization in history, with R$ 120,4 billion (US$69,97 billion) in shares issued.[26] In 2009, it also acquired Esso‘s Chilean business. Petrobras also finalized a $10 billion loan from China in return for a ten years long supply of oil (150,000 barrels (24,000 m3) a day the first year, 200,000 barrels (32,000 m3) a day the nine others).[27]

Bolivian controversy[edit]

On May 1, 2006, Bolivia’s president Evo Morales announced the nationalization of all gas and oil fields in the country. Evo Morales ordered the occupation of all fields by the Bolivian Army. Petrobras was heavily affected by the nationalization. At the time, the company’s Bolivian subsidiary had great importance in the country’s economy:[28]

  • Petrobras represented 24 percent of the Bolivian industrial taxes, 18 percent of the country’s GDP and 20 percent of the foreign investments.
  • The company operated in 46 percent of the oil reserves in Bolivia and was responsible for 75 percent of the country’s gas exports to Brazil.
  • The company invested, between 1994 and 2005, US$1.5 billion in the Bolivian economy.

The nationalization strained the relationship between Petrobras and the Bolivian government. On October 28, 2006, after a long negotiation, Petrobras and Bolivia signed an agreement, whereby the company would take 18 percent of the profits, and the Bolivian government would take the remainder.[29]

U.S spying allegations

It emerged in September 2013 that the US government had been allegedly spying on Petrobras after Organizações Globo reported the claims on national television. The information was reportedly provided by US journalist Glenn Greenwald.[30] Petrobras announced that it was investing R$21 billion over five years to improve its data security.[31]


Petrobras’ most important assets are petroleum reserves in Brazil. Its oil field in the Campos Basin accounts more than 80 percent of the Brazilian oil production. The company also works on developing “green energy”, including biodiesel fuel. Petrobras recently opened its business to the ethanol fuel, facing great competition against the North American ethanol. However, investment in biofuels will represent only 1 percent of the company’s profit between 2008 and 2012.[32]

Petrobras works extensively with foreign acquisitions too, buying and controlling some of the most important energy companies in South America and exploring huge deep-water fields of West Africa and the Gulf of Mexico. Petrobras is known for its technology in deep-water exploration. The Tupi field, which could be the world’s third largest oil field (although data is still unverified), is a deep-water discovery, located in the pre-salt layer.[clarification needed]

The company began to increase profits from 2002, with the government’s heavy investments. In the first quarter of 2008, Petrobras reached the market value of US$295.6 billion, surpassing companies such as Microsoft, BP, and Chevron-Texaco, but behind ExxonMobil and General Electric. Petrobras’ market value is also larger than Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, making it the sixth largest company by market value in the world.[33]

Petrobras is involved in the following areas of business

Petrobras’ financial growth between 2002 and 2006

  • Domestic sales: Domestic sales represent the majority of the company’s profit and include the extraction and distribution of oil, natural gas, derivatives, electricity and petrochemical products;
  • Export: The main exports are not of oil extraction itself, but are related to mechanic technologies. However, it is planned that the company starts to export oil in large quantities when it begins to explore the Jupiter and the Tupi fields (see “List of recent oil field discoveries”);
  • Foreign exchange gains: The company imports natural gas from other South American countries, mostly from Bolivia. According to the Brazilian group National Petroleum Agency, Petrobras owns Brazil’s largest and most important gas pipe network, having a near monopoly of the natural gas marketed in the country.


  • Rising prices: the company profited from rising oil prices in 2007-2008.
  • Increasing demand: oil demand has increased drastically in the emergent countries, for which Petrobras exports its technologies. The BRIC countries’ (Brazil itself, Russia, India and China) growth explains this huge demand. The Brazilian self-sufficiency in Petroleum (as of May 2006) allowed the company to export small quantities of oil.
  • Political issues: despite of being nearly half privately owned, the majority of shares belong to the Brazilian government, which gives it control of the company’s finances and operations. The recent growth of the company is explained by political stability. Since 1997 the Brazilian oil market was opened to foreign investments, but Petrobras continues to be the largest oil company in the country, enjoying a near monopoly.

Oil reserves

At the 20th National Forum, it was revealed that Petrobras, with 11.7 billion barrels (1.86×109 m3) of oil, has the fourth biggest oil reserves among petrochemical companies with publicly traded shares. The figure does not include the recent discoveries in the mega-fields of Tupi, Jupiter, Carioca and Bem-te-vi.[34]


The discovery of large reserves in Santos Basin increased its stock price by about 19 percent in one day. Petrobras is considered the most reliable Blue Chip of the Bovespa Stock Exchange.[citation needed] While the North American Crisis of 2007 decreased the value of the stocks of a great majority of STOCK MARKETS in the world, Petrobras helped hold the Bovespa’s activities steady, making it one of the least affected stock exchanges in the world by the crisis.[citation needed]

Investment grade

On 30 April 2008, Brazil received an “investment grade” rating from Standard & Poor’s, given to countries with stable and consistent growing economy. According toStandard & Poor’s, Brazil jumped from a BB+ grade to a BBB-, the minimum level any country needs to reach to receive the grade. Petrobras played a big part in the country’s growth, and the high rating would be useful in attracting foreign investments.[citation needed]

Investors often criticize the company for not increasing gasoline prices in Brazil, in spite of increasing prices in the international market. The company is having problems adapting its business to the ethanol market.[citation needed]


After a great advance on its stock shares (reaching 52.30 Brazilian real (R$) in Ibovespa) in May 2008,[citation needed] Petrobras faced a devaluation in the following month, its shares decreasing to R$43.90 on 19 June 2008.[35][36][37] The most probable explanation for the great fall was the lack of information about the mega-fields recently discovered by the company.[citation needed] The great instability in Wall Street‘s markets also had great weight in those results.

Petrobras’ fall also led to bad results on the entire BM&F Bovespa, as Petrobras and Vale accounted for more than 25% of BM&F Bovespa‘s trade value,[38] the devaluation of those companies’ shares led it to lose more than 6,000 points in just 25 days.

However, with the continuous decrease of oil prices, Petrobras’ stock shares fell to R$33,00 on 14 August 2008. Its market cap presented the biggest loss of value in the Americas,[citation needed] with US$93 billion (13 August 2008).

List of recent oil field discoveries

Oil platform P-51, the first 100-percent Brazilian oil platform

Petrobras doubled its success rate at drilling new wells, 2002–5.[39]

Petrobras latest Oil Discoveries
Date Basin Field API gravity
April 18, 2006 Espirito Santo Golfinho 38[40]
July 11, 2006 Santos Tupi 30[41]
March 2, 2007 Campos Caxareu 30[42]
June 8, 2007 Espirito Santo Pirambu 29[43]
September 5, 2007 Santos Tupi 27[44]
September 10, 2007 Campos Xerelete 17[45]
September 20, 2007 Santos Tupi Sul 28[46]
December 21, 2007 Santos Caramba 27[47]
January 21, 2008 Santos Jupiter Huge Gas field[48]
May 21, 2008 Santos Bem-Te-Vi 36[49]
May 29, 2008 Santos Tiro 36[49]
June 12, 2008 Santos Guará 28[50]
July 14, 2008 Espirito Santo Golfinho 27[51]
August 20, 2008 Campos Aruanã 28[52]
September 26, 2008 Santos Sidon 36[53]
November 21, 2008 Espirito Santo Jubarte 30[54]
November 25, 2008 Jequitinhonha BM-J-3 ?[55]
January 26, 2009 Santos Piracucá ?[56]
April 8, 2009 Santos Corcovado-1 ?[57]
November 16, 2009 Campos Marimbá 29[58]


The company’s most important discoveries started at the end of 2007, when the first mega-field, named Tupi, was found at a depth of 5,000 meters below the sea level, the first discovery of the company in the pre-salt layer. The second discovery was announced on January 21, 2008: the new mega-field was named Jupiterand had the same size as Tupi.[59] The company revealed no more information about the field, forcing many investors to regard those facts as an “industrial secret”.

On May 21, 2008, the company announced the discovery of a third oil megafield,[60] located 250 km distant from the state of São Paulo, at a depth between 6000 and 6300 meters below sea level. The discovery was made by a consortium formed by Petrobras (66 percent of participation), Shell (20 percent) and Galp Energia(14 percent). The field’s oil reserves had an API gravity between 25 and 28.


According to the Brazilian economy website, North American stock companies are considering the oil mega-field discoveries suspicious. On May 24, 2008, the company’s shares fell 4 percent because of the scarce information given by Petrobras about the fields.[61]

An article written by Roberto Altenhofen Pires Pereira for said (translated from Portuguese):

Despite the incredible advance of 14 percent in Petrobras stock shares after the discovery of Tupi and Jupiter fields, the North American answer for the shares was the worst possible. Petrobras’ ADR’s — American Depositary Receipts — fell more than 4 percent in New York. It seems that the market is interpreting the discovery with mistrust. (…) Everyone knows that the potential of the fields is huge, but that stills being only a “potential”. No concrete information about the fields’ capacity has been released at any time. These are only expectations, which still face a great technological challenge to the exploration of so deep deposits, which may even make this exploration unfeasible.


By the end of 2003, Petrobras subscribed to the United Nations Global Compact, a voluntary agreement which encompasses a set of principles regarding human rights, working conditions and the environment. The company’s growth since 2006 has made Petrobras the most profitable company in the Brazilian economy, and gave it great importance worldwide, being recognized as the eighth biggest oil exploring company in the world.[63] Since 2006 Petrobras has been listed in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, an important reference index for environmentally and socially responsible investors. On February 25, 2008, the Spanish consultancy firmManagement and Excellence acknowledged Petrobras as the world’s most sustainable oil company.[64]

The civil society named Transparency International, which fights against global corruption, published a list on April 28, 2008 containing the names of 42 companies with high transparency levels, in which Petrobras was included.[65]

In May 2008, World Trademark Review magazine awarded[66] the Petrobras trademark team with an Industry Award for Latin American Team of the Year, a category in which Petrobras competed with Coca-Cola, Pepsico, and Procter and Gamble.[67]

Major oil spills – 1975 to 2001[68]
Date Volume (litres) Location
March 1975 6 million Guanabara Bay
October 1983 1.5 – 3 million Bertioga
February 1984 700,000 Cubatão
August 1989 690,000 São Sebastião
January 1994 350,000 – 400,000 Campos Basin
May 1994 2.7 – 3.1 million São Sebastião
March 1997 600,000 – 2.8 Guanabara Bay
October 1998 1 – 1.5 million São José dos Campos
January 2000 1.3 million Guanabara Bay
March 2000 18,000 Tramandaí
March 2000 7,250 São Sebastião
July 2000 4 million Barigui Iguaçu Rivers
August 2000 1,800 Rio Grande de Norte
August 2000 4,000 Angra dos Reis
November 2000 86,000 São Sebastião
March 2001 1.4 million Campos Basin

Global operations

Petrobras’ global oil exploration, as shown in December 2006 with a total of 243,292 BOED

Refinery in Cochabamba, Bolivia

Petrobras global operations extends over 27 countries (including Brazil). Those operations are more related to diplomatic trades than oil exploration, although the company has important fields in India, Turkey, Angola and Nigeria. The most important countries for commercial agreements are Japan, United Kingdom and China. The complete map can be seen in Petrobras official link Petrobras Worldwide.

International Associations

Petrobras is a member of the following international associations:

New Zealand

In June 2010, Petrobras was granted a five-year permit for exploration of the Raukumara Basin, off the East Cape of New Zealand.[69] April 2011 and the Orient Explorer began surveying off the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Greenpeace protestors, in opposition to the deal between the New Zealand government and Petrobras, attempted to halt the work by swimming in front of the survey ship.[70] Local Maori[71] felt the risk to the local waters and fish stocks, should oil be found and drilling go ahead, was too high a price and that better consultation with local people was required.[72] In 2012 Petrobras returned their exploration licences amidst their “annus horribilis“.[71]

Petrobras in popular culture

  • Petrobras maintains a high budget to fund Brazil’s cultural production, such as films, theatre plays and scholarly works. It is the largest sponsor of culture in Brazil since the 1990s.[73]
  • In the Speed Racer live-action movie, one of the cars featured is the “Green Energy”, a biodiesel fueled racing car sponsored by Petrobras.
  • Petrobras is the main sponsor of the Brazilian Série A.
  • Petrobras was a secondary sponsor for the AT&T WilliamsF1 Team from 1998 to 2008 and has resigned with Williams F1 from 2014 onwards.
  • Petrobras was a sponsor for Flamengo in Brazil from 1984 to 2009.
  • The sauropod dinosaur Petrobrasaurus is named after this company.