The new coalition government that came to office in Guyana in 2015 felt it was in the country’s best interest for ExxonMobil – the only company with a willingness at the time to explore in territory threatened by Venezuela – to keep the 600-block acreage known as the Stabroek Block, as outlined in a 1999 agreement.
Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman said after an incident in 2013 in which Venezuela seized an exploration vessel operating in Guyana waters, “no other company wanted to go near the border to the west.” The vessel – RV Teknik Perdana – was conducting a seismic study for Anadarko Petroleum when the Venezuelan navy seized it with 36 crew members, including five US citizens onboard.
“All we did – and the law does allow…for the Minister to exercise discretion – is maintain the exact acreage that was there prior to 2016…to ensure that we lay claim and beneficially occupy that area that was also being claimed by that other country,” he told OilNOW.
The petroleum portfolio at the time the contract was signed in 1999 fell under the South American country’s Executive President.
“We didn’t add anything to Exxon. We just allow them to continue having what they had…The 1999 agreement had not been broken or had not expired. So in a sense, Exxon was well entitled to keep it and we thought that it was in our strategic best interest to have them maintain the same acreage, because no other company had shown an interest in going anywhere near there,” he stated.
There is more interest from companies now, Mr. Trotman said, in going towards the Guyana-Suriname border because that is now a settled area. “Except for Exxon showing the backbone and the courage to go there, no other company is interested,” he reiterated.
ExxonMobil affiliate Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited is operator in the 6.6 million acres Stabroek Block and holds 45 percent interest. Hess Guyana Exploration Ltd. holds 30 percent interest and CNOOC Nexen Petroleum Guyana Limited holds 25 percent interest.