Guyana Exploration Opportunities Draw Industry-wide Interest

Guyana Has Won A Lottery

The International Pavilion buzzed with excitement at the Annual Conference and Exhibition in Salt Lake City, where the new addition IP Theatre featured presentations highlighting exploration opportunities and bid rounds from dozens of countries throughout the world.

One of the most popular presentations was “Guyana Undiscovered”, prepared by Guyana’s Ministry of Natural Resources and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission.

The Ministry is responsible for implementing policy and regulating the extractive factor in Guyana, while GGMC serves as technical regulator for the country’s mining and petroleum activities. The agencies work together to oversee regulation, exploration and future production of all oil and gas resources.

Marissa Foster, AAPG Member and petroleum geologist at the Ministry, provided a brief history of exploration in Guyana, from early work by Conoco and Tenneco in the 1960s through 2017 discoveries on the Stabroek Block made by Esso Exploration and Production in partnership with Hess and CNOOC Nexen.

Foster described Guyana as a “hidden gem,” with two primary petroleum provinces: the Guyana Basin, including the coastal onshore basin fringe and offshore basin, and the Takutu Basin, located in the southwestern section bordering Brazil.

She cited United States Geological Society studies identifying the Guyana/Suriname Regional Basin as the second most attractive under-explored basin in the world and Wood MacKenzie reports noting that the production peak in the offshore Guyana-Suriname region could reach 350,000 barrels per day by 2025.

Foster described how Guyana, traditionally focused on mining, underwent a major shift following ExxonMobil’s Liza discovery in May 2015.

“Guyana has been strengthening its preparedness for large scale exploration activities, environmental monitoring and overall industry regulation,” she said.

She described several factors making Guyana attractive for petroleum ventures: a stable political climate; a hard-working, English-speaking population; and nearby service industry support in Trinidad, Suriname and the Gulf of Mexico. She also noted how the country’s geographical location facilitates shipping and rig movement.

Working with AAPG

Foster explained how their attendance at AAPG ACE for the first time provided the Ministry and GGMC an opportunity to showcase what Guyana has to offer, to learn from others and to seek new partners.

“It was great being able to attend the technical presentations to see research being done on the different play types and components of the petroleum system,” she said. “We also have been able to forge relationships with our counterparts in neighboring countries through the IP. Lastly, we have been able to meet with companies who provide technical and scientific services we as regulators may be interested in.”

The Ministry’s partnership with AAPG started in November 2011, when the Association held its first-ever event in Guyana.

Image Caption

Kaieteur Falls in central Guyana
Photos by Emily Smith Llinás

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The International Pavilion buzzed with excitement at the Annual Conference and Exhibition in Salt Lake City, where the new addition IP Theatre featured presentations highlighting exploration opportunities and bid rounds from dozens of countries throughout the world.

One of the most popular presentations was “Guyana Undiscovered”, prepared by Guyana’s Ministry of Natural Resources and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission.

The Ministry is responsible for implementing policy and regulating the extractive factor in Guyana, while GGMC serves as technical regulator for the country’s mining and petroleum activities. The agencies work together to oversee regulation, exploration and future production of all oil and gas resources.

Marissa Foster, AAPG Member and petroleum geologist at the Ministry, provided a brief history of exploration in Guyana, from early work by Conoco and Tenneco in the 1960s through 2017 discoveries on the Stabroek Block made by Esso Exploration and Production in partnership with Hess and CNOOC Nexen.

Foster described Guyana as a “hidden gem,” with two primary petroleum provinces: the Guyana Basin, including the coastal onshore basin fringe and offshore basin, and the Takutu Basin, located in the southwestern section bordering Brazil.

She cited United States Geological Society studies identifying the Guyana/Suriname Regional Basin as the second most attractive under-explored basin in the world and Wood MacKenzie reports noting that the production peak in the offshore Guyana-Suriname region could reach 350,000 barrels per day by 2025.

Foster described how Guyana, traditionally focused on mining, underwent a major shift following ExxonMobil’s Liza discovery in May 2015.

“Guyana has been strengthening its preparedness for large scale exploration activities, environmental monitoring and overall industry regulation,” she said.

She described several factors making Guyana attractive for petroleum ventures: a stable political climate; a hard-working, English-speaking population; and nearby service industry support in Trinidad, Suriname and the Gulf of Mexico. She also noted how the country’s geographical location facilitates shipping and rig movement.

Working with AAPG

Foster explained how their attendance at AAPG ACE for the first time provided the Ministry and GGMC an opportunity to showcase what Guyana has to offer, to learn from others and to seek new partners.

“It was great being able to attend the technical presentations to see research being done on the different play types and components of the petroleum system,” she said. “We also have been able to forge relationships with our counterparts in neighboring countries through the IP. Lastly, we have been able to meet with companies who provide technical and scientific services we as regulators may be interested in.”

The Ministry’s partnership with AAPG started in November 2011, when the Association held its first-ever event in Guyana.

More recently, in late 2017, the Geosciences Technology Workshop, “Deepwater Exploration of the Columbus and Guiana Basins,” convened 167 of the oil and gas industry’s top business leaders, academics and technical professionals hailing from 17 countries throughout the Americas and Europe.

The GTW featured two days of presentations and discussions related to deepwater exploration stretching from offshore Barbados and Trinidad to Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

Making History

The Ministry’s partnership with the AAPG started in November 2017 when the Association held its first-ever event in Guyana.

“Deepwater Exploration of the Columbus & Guiana Basins,” a Geosciences Technology Workshop, convened 167 of the oil and gas industry’s top business leaders, academics and technical professionals hailing from 17 countries throughout the Americas and Europe.

The GTW featured two days of presentations and discussions related to deep water exploration stretching from offshore Barbados and Trinidad to Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. Guyana’s Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman and ExxonMobil Country Manager Rod Henson inaugurated the event at an opening reception held the evening before the workshop.

Trotman recognized the significance of having an AAPG event in Georgetown.

“Guyana stands at the cusp of great transformation as we usher in this signal chapter in our history, one that has already begun to transform the shape and texture of our society,” he said. “We therefore do not make light of this first ever gathering of AAPG members on Guyanese soil; and upon this good and fertile soil, I make the first step in declaring that it shall not be the last of its kind.”

Trotman encouraged GTW participants to seek both geological and economic success through continual learning, risk reduction and prudent investment.

“Just as the super-continents once connected us, it is also imperative that we stay connected in the scientific community and among governments so that we can fully harness the full potential of our geological basins. Forums such as this enable us to see the bigger, regional picture,” he said.

Seeing the Bigger Picture

GTW Guyana included four technical sessions and the poster session featured 12 presentations covering Demerara Plateau geology, tools and technologies to enhance E&P activities in the region and strategies for engaging local communities.

The fourth session, “Beyond the Wells: Working with Regulators and Communities,” featured a panel discussion covering corporate social responsibility, local content and community outreach in Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.

Panelist Jan Mangal, petroleum adviser to the president of Guyana, spoke candidly about how the developing oil and gas industry can affect all aspects of the country’s socio-economic landscape, both positively and negatively.

“Guyana has won a lottery,” he said. “Evidence from other countries is that this type of windfall is usually squandered and does not benefit the people. This industry can only benefit the people of Guyana if they become informed of the risks, if they insist on full transparency and hold their representatives accountable, and if they get independent expert advice.”

Mangal urged companies seeking to do business in Guyana to understand the country and its people.

“The challenges are rather daunting. There are vast sums of money at stake, and there are numerous very savvy external players,” he said. “Guyanese people (as opposed to Guyanese politicians) can be quite skeptical of foreign investors. If they feel Guyana is being taken for a ride in comparison to other countries, they will react.”

He invited his colleagues to help the country grow sustainably so that all stakeholders benefit.

“You have an opportunity to influence the direction of the industry in Guyana, and thereby Guyana’s future,” he said. “Guyana can become a little Switzerland in the region or can be another disappointing oil state.”

Other panelists shared strategies for ensuring a positive way forward including a commitment to local content development and promoting Corporate Social Responsibility among operators.

Anthony Paul, AAPG member and part of an independent advisory team to Guyana’s Ministry of Natural Resources, presented the Ministry’s policy framework for local content and participation. The policy includes hiring Guyanese nationals as employees or contractors as well as building capacity that enhances their ability to participate.

Key tenets of this policy include creating avenues and opportunities for local participation, knowledge transfer and using opportunities initiated within the petroleum sector for the benefit and growth of other sector industries.

Giving Back and Looking Forward

Event organizers and supporters sought to create an event that would benefit not only those who attended, but also those who live and work in Guyana.

AAPG provided two-for-one workshop and short course registrations to employees from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and free registration to staff from the Ministry of Natural Resources.

ExxonMobil sponsored registration for three Guyanese students, and Chevron sponsored registration for a University of Guyana faculty member.

AAPG also organized a book drive and encouraged GTW participants to pack a textbook in their suitcase. At the closing ceremony, general chairs presented the books to the University of Guyana’s geology department head and dean of technology.

AAPG will continue to support future leaders through establishing a Student Chapter at the University of Guyana and Young Professionals Chapter for recent graduates. The Association also plans to provide guidance to technical professionals seeking to form a geoscience society in Guyana.

A Dream Come True

General Chair Xavier Moonan, AAPG Latin America and Caribbean Region education director and University of the West Indies in St. Augustine professor, described GTW Guyana as a dream come true.

“I have been very interested in the Guiana Basin since my undergrad years, where I followed CGX’s activity very closely. An AAPG GTW held Trinidad in 2014 reaffirmed the potential of this basin with the very positive signs from Repsol’s Jaguar well,” he said.

Moonan shared his interest with Clyde Griffith, AAPG Latin America and Caribbean Region delegate and team coordinator of the geoscience group at Staatsolie in Suriname. Griffith attended the GTW along with 10 colleagues, who took a 12-hour bus and ferry ride from Paramaribo to Georgetown.

“We came to gain knowledge and exposure that we are lacking at Staatsolie to understand the architecture of the Guiana Basin,” Griffith said, “We also wanted to give the staff the opportunity to network with other peers.”

Jim Pindell, director at Tectonic Analysis and workshop speaker, said he was impressed at how participants collaborated throughout the event.

“What struck me was the feeling of a collective need to understand the basins, rather than a bunch of competitive companies trying to glean whatever they could,” he said. “And it is interesting how the basic tectonic evolution of the region has been known for 35 years, yet the economic potential has only been exposed recently.”

Future Plans

Moonan and Griffith expect both industry and AAPG activity to increase in future years, and they are planning to hold another regional GTW in Suriname in late 2019.

Foster described how recent finds and partnerships have catapulted Guyana into a time of critical changes that bring both opportunities and responsibilities.

“We must manage our natural resources from a generational standpoint – honoring the natural patrimony of the country by not just thinking of today’s and tomorrow’s generations but more to come,” she said. “We welcome new partnerships with our well-known Guyanese hospitality to those who hold these values at heart to share in this journey with us.”

If IP and GTW attendance are any indication, the Ministry should have no problem finding partners on that journey.

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