Liza 1 discovery was intentionally “downplayed” in lead-up to Guyana elections – former minister

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Former Minister of Natural Resources in Guyana, Robert Persaud (R) with ExxonMobil Country Manager at the time of the Liza 1 discovery in 2015, Jeff Simon

The biggest offshore oil discovery in 2015 and the first of its kind in the South American country of Guyana was intentionally downplayed in the weeks leading up to the country’s May 11, 2015 national elections.

While the magnitude of the discovery would become known publicly via a press release from US supermajor ExxonMobil on May 20, 2015, former Minister of Natural Resources, Robert Persaud, says he took a decision to downplay the news to avoid it being viewed as a “political tactic” of the then government.

“Weeks before the May 2015 elections, when there was an initial confirmation of commercial oil offshore, I recalled being asked by members of the public, and persons in the state apparatus and private sector whether this was true or just a hoax by the oil exploration company,” Persaud said in his weekly OilNOW column; Are We Ready for Prime Time.

The former minister with responsibility for petroleum, said it took much effort, while not divulging specifics, to remove those doubts.

“Careful attention was paid to ensure that the discovery did not feature prominently in the 2015 elections campaign lest it be seen as a political tactic and further fuel the lingering doubt,” he stated.

When asked by OilNOW if the decision to downplay the discovery was made at the level of government, Persaud said it was a decision “as Minister of Natural Resources.”

Nine days after the elections which saw the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) losing to the multi-party APNU+AFC coalition, the announcement was made. Up to this point, the PPP/C had led successive governments in Guyana for 23 years.

ExxonMobil, in making the announcement, told the world that drilling at the Liza 1 well encountered more than 295 feet (90 meters) of high-quality oil-bearing sandstone reservoirs. It would later become known, after subsequent drilling, that the discovery amounted to 800 million to 1.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil.

To date, the company has made a total of five discoveries in the Stabroek Block, pushing the estimated recoverable reserves to what is expected to be over 3 billion barrels of oil. First oil is expected in 2020.

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