Guyana and Suriname, with populations of approximately 780,000 and 575,000 respectively, are among the smallest countries on the South American continent, both in terms of area and inhabitants.
But these two small nations have now become a big deal with mega oil deposits being discovered off their shores, ushering a period of excitement and hope for their people, who have both been plagued by social, political, and economic challenges.
Apart from the offshore oil resources the two countries have in common, they both recently elected new presidents who are now tasked with charting a new course for prosperity and security.
Already, President Mohamed Irfaan Ali of Guyana and Chandrikapersad Santokhi, President of Suriname, have committed to strengthening bilateral relations and forging a new strategic alliance.
Excitement for the people of Guyana began back in 2015 when ExxonMobil made its first discovery at the giant Liza field. This world class find was followed by multiple discoveries, now totaling 16 at the prolific Stabroek Block. The country has since entered the league of oil producing nations and is expected to become one of the largest non-OPEC producers in a few years.
Suriname, already an oil producer with onshore resources, got its first taste of offshore glory when Apache announced its initial discovery in January at Maka Central-1 at Block 58. This was followed by another oil strike at Sapakara West-1, announced in April. The third and largest discovery to date, also on Block 58, was at Kwaskwasi-1, announced on July 29.
“This third consecutive discovery in a row gives our country, which is going through rough times now, hope for a very bright future,” Agnes Moensi-Sokowikromo, Finance Director at Suriname’s state oil company, Staatsolie, recently told OilNOW, in her capacity as acting Managing Director.
Similar what was being said in Guyana following the Liza discovery, Moensi-Sokowikromo said Suriname’s government, business, and civil society, should accelerate discussions to ensure the country’s current and future generations derive maximum benefits from the new-found resources.
Suriname hopes to begin oil production by 2025-26, even as Apache continues its search for more hydrocarbons and exploration is sure to ramp up in the other offshore blocks.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has long said the Guyana Suriname Basin ranks 2nd in the world for prospectivity among unexplored basins and 12th for oil among all the world’s basins – explored and unexplored. The mean (P50) undiscovered resource potential is estimated at 15.2 billion barrels.
ExxonMobil has already found an estimated 8 billion plus barrels of oil equivalent resources at the Stabroek Block with multiple targets remaining and new prospects being identified on other blocks.
Guyana and Suriname are embarking on a new oil journey at a time when most, if not all the pitfalls of oil producing nations are known and have been closely studied. With the right leadership and commitment to transparency and accountability, these two tiny South American countries can avoid the mistakes made by others and embark on a journey that can be truly transformational for its people.