Tilapia-1 ‘the big catch’ for Guyanese geoscientist Ashlika Persaud

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When ExxonMobil and its joint venture partners in the Stabroek Block offshore Guyana HESS and CNOOC Nexen announced the Tilapia discovery, it was a special moment for young Guyanese geoscientist Ashlika Persaud.

Not only did she work with the team that led the exploration efforts on the well, but also, she was the one given the privilege of naming the well after the fish that is well known and loved among local Guyanese.

Writing an autobiographical feature in ExxonMobil’s Energy Factor magazine publication, Persaud said that she began her career with the company on a major discovery. She calls her story one of a kind.

“I grew up in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, and started college in the U.S. in 2013,” she said. “After graduation, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to join the geoscience team at ExxonMobil.”

She said that soon after, she began working as the lead geoscientist evaluating a new oil prospect close to other recent discoveries offshore Guyana. “I even had the honour of naming that prospect ‘Tilapia’, a fish well known to local Guyanese,” she wrote.

Persaud did not expect her career to take her back home so quickly, especially during what she called an exciting time filled with numerous world-class oil discoveries. “But in 2016, I was suddenly part of a major exploration team that had discovered more than a billion barrels offshore Guyana,” she wrote.

Even though she was part of the team and involved in the day to day monitoring of the drilling efforts, she was taken aback by the significance of the discoveries.

“When the time arrived to drill the Tilapia-1 well, the experience was intense, to say the least. Throughout the drilling operations, we had some long days and even longer nights. Our data told us that there was a high probability of finding oil, but there were no guarantees. All eyes in Houston, including mine, were monitoring operations around the clock, and the team’s diligent analysis was worth it in the end. When we hit the reservoir after weeks of drilling – a moment commonly referred to as “striking oil” – I was struck by the significance of it all,” wrote Persaud.

After months of hard work, anticipation and stress, she was witnessing first-hand the impact that these discoveries would have on her country. “I could not be more proud to have contributed,” she wrote.

She recalled anxiously awaiting the moment the news was public so she could call her parents, “but before I even realized the announcement was out, my parents were already calling to congratulate me on the first discovery of my career,” said Persaud.

The young geoscientist believes she is part of something big for her country and its people and said this causes her to be passionate about her job.

“Finding the energy that has the potential to transform the country of my family and friends is one of the reasons why I’m so passionate about what I do. I couldn’t do my job without a deep interest in science; but at the end of the day, I was emotionally invested in this well and in the promise it holds,” she wrote.

The eleventh well in a 13 successful well count; Tilapia-1 encountered approximately 305 feet (93 meters) of high-quality oil-bearing sandstone reservoir and was drilled to a depth of 18,786 feet (5,726 meters) in 5,850 feet (1,783 meters) of water.

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