Brazil's state-run energy giant Petrobras expects more than half of its crude oil output in 2020 to come from huge deepwater fields, according to its president Graca Foster.
In an interview aired Sunday, Foster said Petrobras was currently extracting 300,000 barrels a day (bpd) from the so-called pre-salt reserves, located at a depth of 6,000 meters (19,000 feet) under a thick layer of salt.
She told TV Brazil that in 2020, production will reach 4.2 million bpd and that 52 percent would come from the pre-salt fields.
Last year, Brazil produced an average of 1.9 million bpd and hopes to boost its output significantly thanks to the pre-salt fields, to be exploited under a concession model with Petrobras as a partner.
Bidding procedures are to be launched this year.
"Over the last 14 months, we issued 18 notifications of finds. It's more than one per month," Foster said.
Production from the pre-salt reserves, discovered in 2007 off southeastern Brazil and estimated to hold up to 100 billion barrels of crude, reached a record 214,000 bpd on December 27.
This represents only seven percent of the average annual crude output in Brazil.
On Friday, Petrobras approved a $236.7 billion investment plan for 2013-2017, billed by the company as the most ambitious business strategy in the world.
With the entry in service of six new rigs, Petrobras hopes to produce 2.02 million bpd this year.
Petrobras reported last month that 2012 net earnings plunged 36 percent from the prior year, to 21 billion reais, or $10.86 billion based on the average exchange rate for 2012.
The company cited the depreciation of the real, higher fuel imports and operational costs as the reason for the drop.
Foster said the company planned to boost its capacity to refine oil derivatives to reduce imports.