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ExxonMobil makes further ripples in Guyana

The South American country’s prolific upstream shows no sign of slowing as another two oil finds are added to the growing list

ExxonMobil has announced another two major oil discoveries in the Stabroek block, offshore Guyana. A well spudded at the Redtail prospect proved the presence of significant oil reserves, while further exploratory drilling at the Yellowtail discovery revealed an additional oil-bearing reservoir.

The Guyana-Suriname basin has become an industry leading upstream hotspot since ExxonMobil first drilled in 2015. Total offshore discoveries in the Stabroek block have risen rapidly and now stand at 18, while estimated recoverable resources have soared to more than 8bn bl oe.

“The Redtail and Yellowtail discoveries further demonstrate the significant exploration potential of the Stabroek block,” says John Hess, CEO of US independent Hess, a 30pc partner in the block. “Redtail is the ninth discovery in the southeast area of the block which we expect will underpin future development.”

Giving precedence

Guyana is a core priority for ExxonMobil. The US major reached first production at its offshore Liza project ahead of schedule in December. And despite the economic downturn and loss of $1.1bn during the second quarter, the firm has not rolled back any of its plans. ExxonMobil is still targeting the next stage of ramp-up at Liza with a second floating production, storage and offloading unit (FPSO). Startup is expected for 2022 and will add another 220,000bl/d of capacity.

“Redtail is the ninth discovery in the southeast area of the block” Hess, Hess

“Our Stabroek block exploration programme continues to identify high-quality reservoirs in close proximity to previous discoveries, establishing efficient opportunities for new projects in Guyana,” says Mike Cousins, senior vice president of exploration and new ventures at ExxonMobil.

Even further ahead, ExxonMobil wants to launch an FPSO at its Payara oil discovery, first announced in 2017. But progress has been delayed because of an election crisis that has plagued the country for months. Incoming president Irfaan Ali says the new government will be reviewing the Payara contract and development plan before giving approval, raising fears of further delays.

Next on the agenda

But, despite political uncertainty, more drilling is on the way. ExxonMobil has scheduled another three wells to be drilled in the Canje block, adjacent to Stabroek. The US major plans to assess the oil potential of the Bulletwood prospect in Canje before moving over to Jabillo and Sapote. In the Kaieteur prospect, also bordering Stabroek, ExxonMobil says it will drill the Tanager prospect before the end of 2020.  

Other firms are also eyeing drilling campaigns in the Guyana-Suriname basin. Anglo-Irish independent Tullow Oil will drill the Goliathberg-Voltzberg North prospect offshore Suriname at the end of the year and into 2021. Tullow has already hired the Stena Forth drillship and plans to move the ship to block 47 in December. The firm has other potential drill targets, including the Rosevelt prospect in block 54. 

Offshore Suriname, Malaysian NOC Petronas will drill a well in block 52 before the end of the year. US independent Apache also sees huge potential in Suriname. The company has highlighted 50 possible drill prospects and is analysing the results of the three oil discoveries already made this year.

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