GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 141-9
Presentation Time: 3:30 PM


OTOYA, Natascha, History, Georgetown University, 37th St NW & O St NW, 03 / 308, WASHINGTON D.C., DC 20057-0002,

This paper seeks to analyse some aspects of the growth of petroleum geology and drilling techniques in Brazil, through the work of the National Petroleum Council (CNP) and later, state-owned company Petrobras, spanning from early 20th century to present time. The development of this scientific field, promoted by state bodies, aided by networks of scientists, technicians, companies and universities both Brazilian and foreign suggests that, in addition to the production of scientific knowledge, there are political, economic and ideological interests at play. It was within these intersections that oil geology developed in Brazil – scientific practices were amalgamated with nationalist ideology, reflected in the political and economic practices of the Vargas government, creating this new field of scientific specialization. Thus, Brazilian petroleum geology as a scientific field has always been permeated by all these dimensions.

From the onset, the different interests at play help determine the direction of state-led initiatives, as well as the conduction of scientific practices. As these practices develop, transform and advance, a shift in perception takes places, which changes from early ideas of a peripheral country that could not produce its own science to the notion of Brazil (and Petrobras) being on the global forefront of scientific discovery and technological development in the oil sector. This a story of how these changes happened – since 1939 when Brazil found its first oil, to the discovery of its offshore reserves in the late 1960’s and beyond, reaching the period when national production of scientific knowledge led to the most recent findings of pre-salt layer reservoirs, which are being explored by directional drilling techniques in ultra-deep water fully developed by Petrobras.