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Humans have lived in Brazil for over 11,000 years. When claimed by Portugal in 1500 it was inhabited by many warring ethnic groups. In 1534 Portugal established 15 colonies which merged as a Governorate General in 1549. The colonies subjugated the indigenous people.
By the 16th century sugar, worked by African slaves, became important, replaced by gold in the 17th century. In 1807 the Portuguese royal court moved from Lisbon to Brazil and in 1815 it became the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves. The king returned to Portugal in 1821 and in 1822 Brazil declared its independence. It was recognized as the Brazilian empire in 1825.
From 1841 the empire fought and won 3 wars with neighbours. In 1888 it finally abolished slavery. Partial democracy punctuated by military dictatorships continued until 1985 when full democracy returned.
By 2002 political stability had been achieved and exceptional economic growth followed. The economy is diverse, depending on oil and agriculture, especially coffee. However, from 2010, falls in commodity prices and reports of fraud by Petrobras, the national oil company, along with government officials, have been very damaging to the country.
Brazil is geographically varied, occupying a large area of the northeast of South America, also including a number of archipelagos, such as Fernando de Noronha, Rocas Atoll, Saint Peter and Paul Rocks, and Trindade and Martim Vaz.
Topography ranges from hills, mountains, plains, highlands, and scrublands mostly between 200 m and 800m elevation. The main upland area is in the south with a plateau of rolling terrain in the northwest and rugged ridges and mountain ranges in the southeast, reaching elevations of up to 1,200m. The highest point is the Pico da Neblina at 2,994m.
Brazil has 8 drainage basins into the Atlantic including the Amazon, the world's largest river in terms of volume and these basins roughly correspond to onshore and offshore sedimentary basins that contain oil and gas.
Oil production began onshore in 1940 but it is offshore where oil and gas production has become significant. First production was at Enchova in 1977 in the Campos basin off Rio de Janeiro. Deep water fields followed from 1987 and technologies are now used to exploit demanding pre-salt deep water fields with focus moving to the southern Santos basin. The first pre-salt field, Lula, came onstream in 2010.
Gas production is also increasing. Not only is there growing output from the Campos basin, as flaring is reduced, but the Santos basin has seen large gas discoveries, which will progressively come onstream. Continued growth is forecast by Globalshift.
Brazil has, for many years, been pursuing alternative energy sources, especially biomass to make ethanol, but the excellent oil and gas potential in deep waters reduced its focus on such innovative policies.
Map and National Flag
Land area (sq kms)
Oil prod (000s b/d)
Gas prod (bcm/yr)
Oil cons (000s b/d)
Gas cons (bcm/yr)
Brazil is a democratic federative republic with a presidential system. The president is head of state and head of government of the Union, elected for a 4-year term.
The National Congress is the Federation's bicameral legislature, consisting of the 513-member Chamber of Deputies and the 81-member Federal Senate.
Petrobras is a semi-public corporation created in 1953 which grew after discovering oil offshore in 1974. It had a monopoly in Brazil until 1997.
In 2014, a corruption scandal was uncovered in which Petrobras officials colluded with companies to overcharge Petrobras in return for kickbacks.
The National Petroleum Agency (ANP) is responsible for the regulation and supervision of activities.
The National Council of Energy Policies is a public agency responsible for the development of public energy policy.
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