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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Operator Profile: Oil & Gas Helicopters in Brazil

By Claudio Agostini, Latin America Bureau Chief

Brazil is one of the driving forces behind Latin America’s emergence as a fast-growing market for helicopter support operations. The largest rotorcraft operator in Latin America is Lider Aviacao, with a fleet of 61 helicopters—comprising the Sikorsky S-92, S-76A/C+/C++ and Bell 412/212—as well as 31 fixed-wing aircraft. Lider employs 250 helicopter pilots and recently purchased an S-76 simulator from CAE Simuflite that is scheduled to enter service this year.

Lider offshore platform landing. Photo courtesy Lider

With 90 percent of the demand for oil and gas helicopters from State Oil Company Petrobras, the country’s fleet is reaching around 105 units, compared with current estimated worldwide fleet of 1,700 helicopters servicing the Oil & Gas industry.

There is still much to know concerning to the discovered fields but Petrobras alone estimates that national petroleum production will double by 2020, from the current 2 million barrels per day to 3.9 million. Within this increment, about 1.2 million barrels are expected to come from the pre-salt. The Oil & Gas boom and consequent proliferation mainly of platforms along Brazilian coast alone would justify the enlargement of the actual fleet of helicopters, which also supports other oil companies like Shell, Chevron and local OGX. But not only the increase in the number of aircraft is involved. The profile of the fleet as well as the pre-salt reservoirs are more than 300 kilometers of the Brazilian coast, and onshore operations like Urucu in the Amazonian region requires access by heavy-lift helicopters.

Lider Sikorsky S-92. Photo courtesy Lider

Although Bristow’s acquisition of Lider shares has taken the media’s attention since 2009, other similar business operations have occurred such as Canadian CHC and local BHS (Brazilian Helicopter Services), Portuguese Omni Aviation and Omni Taxi Aero, Era Group and Aeroleo, Grenwich Aero Group and Helivia. Foreign companies like Russian UTair and PHI in the U.S. showed interest in finding possible local partners to develop their business in Brazil and other South American countries. So, one may estimate that the fleet dedicated to the Oil & Gas segment can nearly triple by 2020, reaching around 250 helicopters.

Some companies prefer independence like Senior Air Taxi that belongs to local Synergy Group. Helicargo, a company formed by the association of Helipark Service Center and Guindastec Heavy Load Technical Services, took a different approach, buying a new Kamov Ka-32A11BC. The aircraft is expected to be in Brazil by end of March/April this year to immediately enter operations for an unnamed contractor, according with Elson Sterque Helipark’s Technical Director.

Helicargo Kamov Ka-32A11BC. Photo courtesy Helicargo

Some years ago a Kamov Ka-32 had successful heavy load operations at URUCU Oil Province in the Amazonian region at Amazon State, located in the northwestern corner of the country. The apparent limited availability of helicopters at short term by traditional suppliers may be seen as a considerable factor to open new opportunities for some operators and non-traditional suppliers.
More: South America Rises: Oil & Gas Moves Economy
 

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