It was not supposed to be this way. Back in 2006 when the first Brazilian pre-salt oil discovery was made, then-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said his country’s new found oil largess would be a second independence for Latin America’s second-largest economy.
It was thought that oil giants the world over would race to Brazil to get a slice of what was the largest discovery in the Americas in more than three decades. Expectations were that Brazil would become the world’s next great non-OPEC producer and that Petrobras (NYSE: PBR), the country’s state-run oil company, would be Latin America’s Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM) or Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A).
And for those that did not want to make a single-stock bet on Petrobras, the iShares MSCI Brazil Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWZ) was supposed to be the way to get some exposure to Brazil’s status as a rising oil power. [LatAm ETFs Look to Bounce Back]
Fast-forward to 2014, and the ebullience surrounding Petrobras, EWZ and arguably, Brazil’s oil industry at large, is long gone. Remember when President Obama roiled political opponents when he said he wanted the U.S. to become one of Brazil’s best oil customers? The opposite has come to pass.
To be clear, Brazil does not need to import much oil. However, the state of the country’s refinery system is decrepit. Existing refineries are operating at capacity and new refineries are years from coming online.
“A rising share of the nation’s gasoline and diesel comes from shale oil in Texas, Oklahoma and the Dakotas that is refined on the U.S. Gulf Coast,” Reuters reported. “Brazil imported some 530,000 barrels per day (bpd) of refined fuels through November 30, nearly double the levels of 2007.”