Wagner Freire

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Wagner Freire
Wagner Freire headshot.png
Membership Life Member

Biography Citation for an SEG Special Commendation

Contributed by Dick Conroy

The selection of Wagner Freire for an SEG Special Commendation is fitting recognition for an international explorationist who accepted the challenge of making sure leading edge technology was applied and that well-trained people were in place to ensure it was fully utilized. The success of Brazil and Petrobras in deep water exploration is living testimony to this effort.

Wagner's educational background includes an undergraduate degree in civil engineering plus a one-year postgraduate course in nuclear engineering from the University of Rio de Janeiro and two years of postgraduate study in petroleum geology, coordinated by Frederick Humphrey of Stanford University through the University of Bahia. This concluded in 1959. Wagner's "real world" training began the next year as a geologist on a Petrobras surface mapping crew in Bahia's Reconcavo Basin.

After subsequent assignments in seismic acquisition, interpretation, and data processing, he was selected chief geophysicist of Petrobras in 1968. He refers to this position, which he held until 1976, as the exciting phase of his career. During this time, he participated in the digital revolution, the exploration thrust onto the continental shelf, and the initiation of a Petrobras-sponsored graduate studies program in exploration and production. This ultimately impacted Brazil's offshore successes and established Petrobras as the world leader in deepwater exploration/production, a fact formally recognized by the Achievement Award, for leadership in deepwater technology, at the 1992 Offshore Technology Conference.

Petrobras adopted a "risk contract" policy in late 1975 and Wagner was selected as deputy manager of a special group that negotiated and executed those contracts. It was in this role, which lasted until 1980, that exploration's international community learned to respect Wagner's open-minded and even-handed approach to negotiation.

His international responsibilities were expanded in 1980 when he became managing director of exploration and production for Petrobras International (Braspetro). Three years later he was promoted to executive vice president. Again, his patience and persistence prevailed in negotiations in such challenging areas as Iraq, Angola, China, Algeria, Libya, and various Latin American countries.

In 1985-90, Wagner served in a dual capacity as president of Braspetro and managing director of E&P for Petrobras. During this period, the giant discoveries at Marlim and Albacora were confirmed and the basis for startup of production of Marlim (in 2500 ft of water) was established, convincing Petrobras that the solution to Brazil's energy problem was the deep offshore. This was a classic example of the application of cross-disciplinary technology, ranging from 3-D seismic to innovative subsea completion, which yielded cost-effective development of deepwater fields. Other notable achievements of this period include the beginning of Petrobras operations in Norway, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Although these successes occurred because of his strategy to move into competitive markets, Wagner generously gives much of the credit to visionaries such as Walter Links, Carlos Walter Campos, the well-trained and dedicated staff of Petrobras, technology imported from service companies, and North Sea operators.

Wagner's final Petrobras assignment was as president of Houston-based Petrobras America in 1991-92. He describes the experience as his first opportunity to manage a small oil company. Again he looked offshore, this time to deep waters in the Gulf of Mexico, while simultaneously upgrading his staff and interpretation facilities. He was unofficially regarded, by the oil industry, as the resident ambassador for Petrobras Brazil.

Upon retiring from Petrobras in 1992, Wagner joined Deltaserve, a Brazilian service company based in Rio. He is currently a member of an advisory group which is consulting the Brazilian legislature concerning pending elaboration of its petroleum law.

Wagner has been a member of SEG and served as representative at large in 1974-75. He has also belonged to the EAGE, Sociedade Brasileira de Geologia, and Sociedade Brasileira de Paleontologia. He is currently active in the local Sociedade Brasileira de Geofisica and the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Through the years, he has participated in many international conferences and seminars, often as a guest speaker or making a technical presentation relative to deepwater exploration.

Wagner is married to Alda Santarosa Freire, a prosecuting attorney for the state of Rio de Janeiro (makes one wonder where he really learned the art of negotiation). Their three children have degrees, respectively, in mathematics, engineering, and biology. Wagner enjoys cross-country skiing and is currently tackling German at the Goethe Institute in Rio.

I feel honored to have been asked to prepare this citation. I have had a client-contractor relationship with Wagner since the early 1970s. Aside from friendship, we shared three common interests: A desire to identify leading edge technology, a desire to find the most sophisticated and cost-effective solutions, and a desire that all dealings be professional. Our success at implementation of the first two items is subject to debate, but the answer to the latter is a resounding, yes!