Over eight months in – Guyana producing oil ahead of its time – Francis Kiernan

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US oil major ExxonMobil announced its first world class discovery in May 2015 at the Liza field offshore Guyana. The well encountered more than 295 feet (90 meters) of high-quality oil-bearing sandstone reservoirs and was safely drilled to 17,825 feet (5,433 meters) in 5,719 feet (1,743 meters) of water.

Approximately 5 years later on December 20, 2019, the country produced its first barrel of oil and less than a month after that, exported its first one million barrels of Liza Crude.  

“The average time in water of this depth from discovery to first oil is nine years. This was done in five,” said Liam Mallon, President of Upstream Oil and Gas at ExxonMobil, while on a visit to the South American country earlier this year.

“We are proud of our work with the Guyanese people and government to realize our shared long-term vision of responsible resource development that maximizes benefits for all,” Darren Woods, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Exxon Mobil Corporation, said at the time.

Speaking on day two of the Aberdeen Guyana Gateway on August 20 this year, Francis Kiernan, Managing Director of ABIS Energy UK/Guyana, said conversations about Guyana around the world speak of an emerging industry ahead of its time.

“One of the things with Liza 1 and with ExxonMobil is the speed of the delivery of the field from discovery to production. That was about five years. Guyana has been producing [oil] for [almost] nine months. Some of the conversations that we hear amongst the oil and gas fraternity are conversations that really belong three years down the road,” he stated.

Mr. Kiernan said because of the speed of the Liza project, ExxonMobil shifted focus towards Guyana from some of its other areas of operations. “ExxonMobil made the decision to sacrifice the Permian Basin as the primary investment destination because of the ease and speed first of all of Liza 1 and the capacity they have to get a return on capital,” he said, noting that the company plans to spend about $35 billion by 2025, which he called “big money” even by big oil standards. Already, Guyana has received close to US$100 million from royalty and its share of profit oil.

The first phase of oil production at the giant Liza field marked a significant turning point for the country, providing it with an unprecedented opportunity to potentially become one of the wealthiest nations in the world. It is expected that by 2030, Guyana’s output will exceed one million barrels per day making it one of the top producers in the Caribbean and Latin America region.


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