APNU+AFC-led gov’t granted Exxon extension for three oil blocks, documents show

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The Guyana Government clarified on Tuesday that an extension for exploration on three blocks operated by ExxonMobil affiliate, Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), was actually granted by its predecessor, and must therefore be honoured. 

The government’s statement follows several recent comments from the opposition on the matter of relinquishment. 

Specifically, members of the Alliance For Change (AFC) and the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)—the two parties that led the former administration from 2015 to 2020, heavily criticized the current government’s decision to extend the exploration agreement for the Stabroek Block license. They said 20 percent of the block should have been relinquished this year, as per the terms of its agreement. 

Exxon’s petroleum agreement for prolific Stabroek Block expires in October 2026 – Hess President | OilNOW

Though the government had explained that this extension was as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on exploration activities, the APNU said such a position was not satisfactory. It demanded to know what due diligence was done by the government to understand the extent to which exploration activities were affected. 

Similarly, the Alliance For Change (AFC) raised concerns, stating that oil production operations were allowed during 2020 as it was classified as an “essential service.” It, therefore, found it difficult to comprehend why an extension was being granted on exploration activities. 

Guyana’s Natural Resources Ministry made it clear on Tuesday via a statement to the press that the extension was granted by former President and APNU+AFC leader, David Granger. He did so after receiving a request for same from EEPGL President, Alistair Routledge on July 2, 2020.

The documents signed by Granger allow for a one-year extension for three blocks EEPGL operates— Stabroek, Canje and Kaieteur. 

The document states, “…the days beginning on March 11, 2020, and ending on March 10, 2021, are not counted in assessing elapsed time applicable to the Petroleum Prospecting License No.1793/2016 dated 7th October 2016. The timeline will be reviewed on a quarterly basis to determine whether adjustments to this period are warranted…” 

The ministry said it is crucial to highlight that the 2020 Annual Work Programme and Budget (AWPB) had previously received approval in 2019 during the tenure of the APNU/AFC Government. This extension was facilitated during the pandemic’s nascent stages, a time when its eventual magnitude and repercussions were uncertain.

The ministry also categorically stated athat “no extensions have been provided for production operations under any existing Petroleum Production Licence.” 

EEPGL which leads a consortium with Hess Corporation and CNOOC Petroleum Guyana Limited operates the Stabroek Block which spans 6.6 million acres. It is expected to return 20 percent of that deepwater concession next year.

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