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Petrobras plans to turn science fiction into reality to extract oil from the vast pre-salt oil fields discovered off the south east coast of Brazil.

The plan is to construct 'cities’ more than 2,000 metres under water, containing machines, giant pieces of equipment and robots that could inspect the systems being used to extract millions of barrels of oil. Many operations would be fully automated while others would be controlled by humans at a distance.

“Our target is that we won’t need platforms in ten years from now,” said Carlos Tadeu Fraga, executive manager of the Petrobras Research Centre.

Petrobras already owns virtual reality laboratories where engineers can inspect 3D images of oil fields. But now they want to take a further technological leap by installing floating rig equipment on the sea bed.

The machinery under the sea would be capable of separating oil, gas, water and sand, compressing substances and generating enough energy to keep the operation functioning

Petrobras will take the first step in turning its plans into reality when it installs machines to separate water and oil in the Marlim oil field in the Campos Basin.

It is having to ambitious to extract the huge reserves in the pre-salt fields, which lie below layers of sand, rock and salt as well as water

By Robin Yapp, in Sao Paulo