Brazil Oil Field Could Be Huge Find

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) — A deep-water exploration area off Brazil's coast could contain as much as 33 billion barrels of oil, the head of Brazil's National Petroleum Agency said Monday. That would make it the world's third-largest known oil reserve.

Haroldo Lima cautioned that his information on the field off the coast of Rio de Janeiro is unofficial and needs to be confirmed.

The state-run Petrobras oil company declined comment on what would be the planet's largest oil find in decades, and its shares moved wildly in positive territory after Lima made the comments.

By early afternoon, the company's American depository shares were up 8.5 percent in New York, or US$9.54 (euro6.01) to US$122.39 (euro77.13).

Lima told reporters that Petrobras "may have discovered a huge petroleum field that could contain reserves large as 33 billion barrels," amounting to the world's third-largest reserve, according to his spokesman, Luiz Fernando Manso.

If true, the oil in the Carioca exploration area would be five times larger than the Tupi oil field, whose estimated reserves of 8 billion barrels were announced by Petroleo Brasileiro SA in November. Petrobras also announced a blockbuster find of natural gas in February in an Atlantic Ocean field nicknamed Jupiter.

Industry experts say the Tupi and Jupiter fields alone could turn Brazil into a major oil and gas exporter and lead to it joining OPEC.

Petrobras is renowned for its deep-water drilling ability, and is widely regarded as one of the best state-run oil companies in the world.

Brazil became self-sufficient in oil production in 2006 but must import light crude oil for the refined products it needs. The country produces — and exports — mostly heavy crude oil, which has to be mixed with the light oil in refineries.

Associated Press writer Stan Lehman contributed to this report.