Easwaran Kanason

Co - founder of NrgEdge
Last Updated: September 6, 2018
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And the hits keep coming in Guyana. This week, ExxonMobil announced that it had made a new discovery – called the Hammerhead-1 – in the South American nation. It is the ninth in a string of major offshore discoveries that have turned the once sleepy nation into the world’s newest hotbed of upstream exploration.

Located in the Stabroek Block, the Hammerhead-1 well encountered ‘approximately 60 metes of high quality, oil-bearing sandstone reservoirs’, the fifth discovery in the basin and just 21 km southwest of Liza-1, the well that kicked off the bonanza in January 2017. The discovery brings the estimated gross recoverable resources in the Guyana-Suriname basin to 4 billion barrels of oil equivalent, up from the initial 1.4 billion barrels when Liza-1 was discovered and 3.2 billion barrels in January 2018, when the Ranger-1 well struck oil.

The current timeline has Phase 1 of Liza – which is already sanctioned - reaching first oil by early 2020, using the Liza Destiny FPSO to produce an initial 120,000 b/d. Liza Phase 2 is set for FID at the end of the year, bringing in another FPSO with 220,000 b/d capacity by 2022, while sanctioning for Payara (using a 180,000 b/d FPSO) is set for 2019 for a 2023 startup. Beyond that, ExxonMobil, Hess and CNOOC Nexen have noted that the discoveries in Stabroek could support up to five FPSO vessels, producing some 750,000 b/d by 2025.

That is, if things stay the way they are. The current exploration program in Guyana has a success rate of 82%, and there are almost 18 prospects left in the Stabroek block that can be pursued. The consortium led by ExxonMobil (45%) with Hess (30%) and CNOOC Nexen (25%) is currently the only player in Guyana, operating the 26,800 square km Stabroek Block. Buoyed by that resounding success, there are more players knocking at the door – in search of assets that the US Geological Survey estimated could contain as much as 13.6 billion barrels of oil and 32 tcf of natural gas. Even neighbouring countries of Suriname and French Guiana are gearing up for some action.

With this much riches on the horizon, Guyana could become the new Qatar or Brunei – a tiny nation punching well above its weight economically, or what Wood Mackenzie is calling ‘the richest corner of the continent’. However, there are warning signs that the current institutional and regulatory framework is insufficient to handle the influx of discoveries; a national oil company is being developed and a new taxation system for oil contract is being mooted to prevent the ‘lopsided’ ExxonMobil contract from repeating, but more needs to be done. The future looks very bright for Guyana, but with petro-dollars always come major risks. Here’s hoping the opportunities Guyana has been blessed with will not be squandered.

Major oil discoveries in Guyana

Estimated recoverable volumes: 4 billion barrels oil (August 2018)

  • January 2017: Liza-1
  • January 2017: Payara-1 (Payara-2 in June 2017)
  • February 2017: Liza Deep
  • March 2017: Snoek
  • October 2017: Turbot-1
  • January 2018: Ranger-1
  • March 2018: Pacora-1
  • June 2018: Longtail-1
  • August 2018: Hammerhead-1

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