On Wednesday 5 Oct 2016, Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies paved the way for changes to the structure of Brazil’s nascent pre-salt oil industry, opening the door to increased foreign investment - and for the first time operatorship – in one of the world’s premier untapped oil basins.

Located in ultradeep water, 200 miles off Brazil’s south-eastern coast, the discovery of Brazil’s pre-salt basin was one of the world’s most important in the last decade. This year production reached a million bopd. Estimates of the basin’s recoverable reserves range from 50 billion, to 123 billion barrels of oil.

President Michel Temer has indicated he will sign the new bill into law, overturning Law No. 12,351, of December 22, 2010, which sets out the pre-salt regulatory framework. Currently, the law requires the national oil company, Petrobras, to be the sole operator of all pre-salt fields, and to hold a minimum of 30% equity in each of those blocks. Under the new arrangements, the National Council for Energy Politics (CNPE) will first offer the blocks under the product sharing regime to Petrobras, who may accept or reject the offer within thirty days before they are tendered to other operators.

The bill has been voted on and approved by the Chamber of Deputies. Prior to receiving final presidential approval, some proposed amendments must be considered by the Chamber. This notwithstanding, the industry doubts that the deputies are going to vote to include the amendments in the final bill. Approximately a further 71,000 km2 of the basin remains to be tendered.