Suggesting all blocks for petroleum exploration were issued is ‘dangerously wrong’ – Ram

Map showing offshore blocks in Guyana. Dark brown areas represent unallocated blocks.

Guyanese Attorney-at-Law and Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram, says the suggestion that all of the blocks for petroleum exploration and production were given out prior to 2015 is dangerously wrong, since the available information contradicts this.

Christopher Ram

Speaking at a public forum on Friday evening at Moray House Trust, in Guyana’s Capital, Georgetown, Ram, a prominent political commentator in the South American country, listed the known companies which, to date, have been granted petroleum prospecting licenses in the country. He pointed out that based on the number of licensees; there still remain multiple blocks available, particularly near-shore, as shown in the dark brown areas of the map (see image above).

“A lot has been given out, but very interestingly; near-shore there is still a very large number of blocks available. So to suggest that 100 percent was issued is completely wrong and dangerously so,” he said.

At a press conference on Thursday, the Alliance For Change (AFC), a key political party in the APNU-AFC coalition government, said by the time the new administration took up office following the May 2015 elections in Guyana, all the petroleum blocks were already given out.

Speaking at the press conference, AFC Executive Member and Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, said, “When we got in (Office) they had already given out everything. What you got to do is find out who they give it to; some of the people we do not even know. There is nothing to give they have given out all and he (former Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo) should know because when he was president he was the person in charge of natural resources.”

However, the new APNU-AFC government itself signed a Petroleum Prospecting License and Production Sharing Agreement with the joint venture team of Tullow Guyana B.V. and Eco (Atlantic) Guyana Inc. for a concession of 1801sq. km, in the Orinduik Block, offshore. This agreement, announced in January of 2016, suggests that blocks were indeed available when the coalition took up office.

Additionally, Petroleum Prospecting Licenses and Production Sharing Agreements, as is evident in the 1999 agreement signed between Guyana and ExxonMobil, require the provision of information about the company and its principals. Therefore, the identities of those to whom blocks have been issued could be checked and verified by the Petroleum Division of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, the entity currently tasked with this responsibility.