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Prospecting frenzy builds in Guyana-Suriname basin

11 Aug 2017 16:32 (+01:00 GMT)
Prospecting frenzy builds in Guyana-Suriname basin

Kingston, 11 August (Argus) — Companies with licences to work blocks in the prospective offshore Guyana-Suriname basin are intensifying their searches and planning to spud wells, encouraged by recent significant finds by US major ExxonMobil.

Guyana produces no oil and gas, while Suriname's output of 16,300 b/d comes from the onshore Tambaredjo and Calcutta fields. The US Geological Survey says the basin off the coast of the two South American countries contains an estimated 13.6bn bl of oil and 32tcf of natural gas yet to be discovered.

"We have always known we had oil, but since the ExxonMobil discoveries other companies have become almost frenetic in setting schedules for their work," Guyana state agency GGMC tells Argus.

ExxonMobil will start production of about 120,000 b/d in 2020 from the deepwater Stabroek block on which it has found gross recoverable resource of between 2.25bn and 2.75bn bl of oil equivalent (boe) the company said last month.

Suriname state-run oil company Staatsolie says its offshore fields are geologically very similar to rich offshore western Africa fields such as Jubilee.

"It is a geological mirror that was created before the continents drifted," the company said.

Anglo-Irish independent Tullow Oil is working offshore in both countries, and plans to drill the Araku-1 well on Block 54, 200km off Suriname's coast in the fourth quarter of this year. Tullow has a 30pc stake in the block that it says has a resource potential of 500mn bl. Staatsolie has a 50pc interest in the block and Norway's Noble Energy has 20pc.

Tullow also has a 30pc interest in the 6,525 km² Kanuku shallow water block, 80km off Guyana where operator Repsol — with a 40pc stake — plans to start drilling by late 2018. Germany's DEA has a 30pc interest.

Tullow and Canadian partner Eco Atlantic have started seismic surveys of the 1,800 km² shallow water Orinduik block that is 6.5 km south of Stabroek. Tullow is the operator and has a 60pc stake in Orinduik with Eco Atlantic holding 40pc. Tullow plans to start drilling on the "highly prospective" block by the end of 2018.

Despite the prospects, offshore Guyana exploration is under the shadow of a long-standing territorial dispute with Venezuela. Venezuela has claimed sovereignty over the resource-rich Essequibo province that makes up the western two thirds of Guyana. The dispute has prevented the countries from demarcating their maritime boundary.

Venezuela interrupted work off Guyana´s coast in October 2013 when its navy seized the Teknik Perdana research vessel that had been studying the Roraima block on behalf of US independent Anadarko. The vessel and the crew were released after a week. Anadarko has not indicated whether it will be restarting work on the block.

But after raising objections to ExxonMobil's drilling plans last year, Caracas has gone silent on the matter as it focuses on containing internal strife.

ExxonMobil is expanding its presence in the Guyana-Suriname basin and is surveying the deepwater Kaieteur block adjacent to Stabroek, which is a 50:50 partnership with Israel's Ratio Energy.

ExxonMobil is the operator in a consortium that includes US independent Hess and Norway´s Statoil, and which plans to prospect offshore Suriname following the conclusion last month of a production sharing agreement with Staatsolie for Block 59.

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