State-controlled oil firm Petrobras said it made a new discovery of high-quality crude at a well located in very deep waters of the Santos Basin, off the coast of southeastern Brazil.

The Franco SW well, which is still in the drilling phase, is located at a depth of 2,024 meters (6,635 feet) some 210 kilometers (130 miles) from Rio de Janeiro and 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) south of the discovery well 2-ANP-1-RJS, or Franco.

The discovery was made in the pre-salt layer, which is found beneath the sea bottom and contains a gel-like deposit of salt that could be up to two kilometers (1.24 miles) deep.

The pre-salt reserves are estimated at billions of barrels of oil equivalent and could potentially transform Brazil into a major crude exporter.

A law signed in 2010 declares the pre-salt reserves to be state property and stipulates that they will be explored and developed by consortiums in which Petrobras will have a minimum 30 percent stake.

The legislation established a production-sharing model in which the consortiums must give the Brazilian government a percentage of the extracted crude. They will also be required to make royalty payments.

Under the legislation, Petrobras is the operator of all projects and also can be awarded exploration contracts without a competitive bidding process.

The oil column verified to date at Franco SW is 295 meters (965 feet) long and the samples collected indicate an American Petroleum Institute gravity of 28 degrees.

Petrobras, Brazil's largest corporation, is one of the world's fastest-growing oil companies. EFE