The Guyana-Suriname basin is viewed by analysts in the oil and gas industry as potentially the last major frontier for billion-barrel plus deepwater discoveries. The world-class Liza discovery in 2015 was the biggest offshore oil strike made in a decade at the time and remains unparalleled to this day for deepwater success around the world.
According to Westwood Global Energy Group, current projections for 2021 suggest that activity should at least match the 70 wells in 2020 with the potential to be higher and up to 100, with drilling plans still being fluid and expected to firm up in the first quarter of the year.
In a recent webinar with focus on the state of exploration 2021, the energy market research and intelligence company said much can happen in the exploration world in the coming years. “So, we can see Total, and Exxon are both expected to drill around 15 high impact wells each. They’re going to be the most active followed by Shell,” said Jamie Collard, Senior Analyst at Westwood.
Exploration hot spots for 2021 are mainly in the Americas, particularly offshore Mexico, the Suriname-Guyana Basin, and offshore Brazil. Westwood is projecting that there would be more focus on oil prospects, with ~83% of wells expected to target oil. These include Mexico’s Campeche Salt Basin (>10 wells), Brazil’s pre-salt (5-6 wells), Suriname-Guyana (>10 wells) and the North Sea (>5 wells).
In Guyana, Stabroek block operator ExxonMobil said it plans to pursue an aggressive exploration and appraisal drilling programme this year, even as it lay the groundwork for start-up of the Liza Phase 2 development offshore. This follows the giant Liza-1 world-class discovery back in 2015 which Westwood said opened up a potential ten-billion-barrel oil province, the first since the presalt Santos in 2006.
Westwood said with the exception of Guyana and Suriname, the oil plays have generally been more limited in size. None of the plays that have been discovered since Liza in 2015 has even come close to delivering a multi-billion-barrel result.
“So, if you consider that frontier exploration has been so poor, combined with Westwood forecasting fewer frontier wells in 2021 and the oil plays that have been discovered have been relatively limited in scale, this really highlights how the emerging play options are shrinking and begs the question, could Liza be the last multi-billion-dollar barrel oil play?” collard posited.
OilNOW understands that in the nine years between Tupi and Liza, more than 250 companies participated in over 350 frontier exploration wells globally with ~70% of these targeting oil plays and more than half attempting to open new basins.