Brazil's government says that a consortium including petroleum companies Shell, Total, two Chinese firms and Petrobras has won the auction to develop a massive offshore oil block.

It's the first oil auction held under Brazil's new rules that give more power to state-run Petrobras.

The Brazilian firm will be the sole operator and owns a 40 per cent stake of the Libra oil field. It could hold upward of 12 billion barrels.

Both Shell and Total will own 20 per cent, while Chinese companies CNOOC and CNPC each took 10 per cent. CNOOC began trading in Toronto in September after winning a bid for Calgary's Nexen

Under the new rules for offshore auctions, Petrobras is the sole operator of fields and must hold a minimum 30 per cent stake in them.

Critics say that's scared off private oil companies and will the slow the development of the offshore finds, which could hold upward of 100 billion barrels.

Just 11 firms took part in Monday's bidding process, fewer than the 40 the Brazilian government hoped to attract.

No energy companies based in the U.S., U.K., Canada, New Zealand or Australia participated in the auction for what is billed as the largest oil find in 40 years.