Guyana’s oil odyssey began in the 18th century.
Records show the discovery of flotsam pitch by Dutch explorers in the 1750’s and small pitch deposits were also observed near Krunkenal Point, northern Guyana in 1917. Source - Guyana's Oil Odyssey- 1750-2019
First oil prospection licence was issued to Trinidad Leaseholds Company Ltd
Prospects were onland until the 1930s. Most were unsuccessful however a well drilled at Plantation Bath in 1926 was able to provide enough gas to be used at the local sugar factory.
In 1938 that the first oil prospection licence was issued to Trinidad Leaseholds Company Ltd. Their collaboration with Investments Corporation and Central Mining made it the first integrated attempt at an oil exploration program in Guyana.
A Concise Illustrated History of Oil Exploration in Guyana
No further exploration was conducted until 1965 but in the interim, several regional aeromagnetic surveys were conducted with one allowing, for the first time, several traverses across the onshore Takutu Basin.
Licences were granted to Conoco – offshore – and Shell
In 1965 exploration saw another burst of activity. Licences were granted to Conoco – offshore – and Shell – offshore and onshore.
Amendments made to the Petroleum Licensing Regulations
By 1967 amendments made to the Petroleum Licensing Regulations saw the creation of the Oil Exploration Licence (OEL) and Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL). The OEL was valid for two (2) years and allowed a further one year renewal to cover pre-drilling activities while the OPL was valid for five (5) years and renewable for another five (5) years to cover the drilling phase. The Oil Mining Licence, valid for thirty (30) years, was issued to cover production and development activities.
During the 1970’s a number of offshore and onshore projects were conducted unsuccessfully.
Government of Guyana began to promote and attract investors for exploration in Guyana’s emerging petroleum industry.
In the 1980s the Government of Guyana began to promoting and attract investors for exploration in Guyana’s emerging petroleum industry. In 1984, this initiative was supported financially and technically by the World Bank with the following aims:
- To synthesize all petroleum exploration data in Guyana
- To create and enact legislation for petroleum and gas exploration and production
- To dynamically promote Guyana’s petroleum exploration potential
Some of these objectives were fulfilled by promotional seminars in London and Houston, Texas. The success of this project was measured by the subsequent grant of two offshore petroleum exploration licences to LASMO/BHP and PETREL/GUYANA Exploration Limited (GEL) in 1988. Moreover, LASMO/BHP concluded additional offshore seismic surveys in 1989.
The World Bank is still supporting Guyana in developing the new oil and Guyana sector today.
Proposals for offshore wells in the 80’s and 90’s were frustrated by Companies inability to raise funds. Many of the players in the oil and gas business in Guyana today were involved in projects during the 80’s and 90’s.
The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission participated as an associate member in the South American Mapping Project (SAMMP undertaken between October 1992 and October 1995. SAMMP was sponsored by six major oil and mining companies (AMOCO, BHP, CONOCO, EXXON, JNOC and UNOCAL), to gather the maximum available aeromagnetic and marine magnetic data on the South American continent and its offshore continental margin, to compile, catalogue, display and prepare a digital dataset of such data and produce a comprehensive report.
GGMC benefited through the project by the acquisition of gridded magnetic dataset for Guyana which GGMC was allowed to use and distribute after paying a royalty charge to PGW- Paterson, Grant and Watson.
Oil exploration came to a halt due to the lack of funding for drilling programs
In 1994, oil exploration came to a halt due to the lack of funding for drilling programs. Consequently, in October 1995, the government of Guyana in an effort to resuscitate exploration entered into an initial six month promotional agreement with PETREL. PETREL was given exclusive rights to promote the Georgetown offshore Block and was responsible to attract companies to Guyana to conduct exploration in Georgetown offshore Exploration Block. The initial contract was renewable for a further three month period.
CGX attempted to spud a well on its Eagle Prospect. Operations ceased due to border dispute
In June 2000, CGX attempted to spud a well on its Eagle Prospect, however, Surinamese gunboats claimed that the CGX contracted drilling rig, the CE Thornton was in Surinamese waters and as such forced it to cease operations and evacuate the area
As a result of this aggression in a longstanding border dispute with neighbouring Suriname, exploration activities in the Basin eventually came to a halt once again.
United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimated that the Guyana Basin has potentially recoverable reserves
In 2001, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimated that the Guyana Basin has potentially recoverable reserves of around 15 billion barrels, a possibly optimistic figure.
Government of Guyana formally commenced binding dispute settlement procedures under the United National Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
In 2004, On February, the Government of Guyana formally commenced binding dispute settlement procedures under the United National Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in an effort to resolve the maritime border dispute between Guyana and Suriname.
Meanwhile, ON ENERGY conducted 2D seismic and CGX concluded its purchase of the Pomeroon Block, a 2.8 million acre 100% interest block adjacent to the border of Venezuela. They did once again not conduct any exploration on this block due to the unresolved maritime border between Guyana and Venezuela.
CGX drilled three onshore wells on its Berbice Block through its operating stake in ON ENERGY JV
In 2005, CGX drilled three onshore wells on its Berbice Block through its operating stake in ON ENERGY JV. The three wells were at Yakusari-1, Hermitage-1 and Albion-1, Corentyne (Wood Mackenzie, 2008). However, they were all considered dry holes.
Groundstar Resources was awarded the Takutu Block which covers the entire Guyanese portion of the Takutu Basin in 2005. (Wood Mackenzie, 2008)
Border dispute between Guyana and Suriname settled by the UN-ITLOS
In September 2007, the century old maritime border dispute between Guyana and Suriname was finally settled by the United Nations International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). The resolution was in favour of Guyana which received the majority (33,000 square kilometres) of the acreage under dispute while Suriname was awarded the remaining 17,800 square kilometres. Importantly, exploration was once again encouraged and on the rise with refreshing optimism for the development of a new exploration and production frontier in South America. (Wood Mackenzie, 2008)
After the resolution of the border dispute with Suriname, activities within the Guyana Basin continued.
Venezuelan navy interrupted and seized a research vessel conducting work on behalf of Anadarko
In 2013, Venezuelan navy interrupted and seized a research vessel conducting work on behalf of Anadarko. Consequently, there were no other operations within the Roraima Block occurred.
This significant find has once again reignited interest in Guyana potential petroleum industry and consequently, companies requested extensions on their obligations to drill and other companies are encouraged. Subsequent to this significant oil discovery, Repsol and CGX requested extensions in June on their drilling commitments for 2016 and 2015 respectively.
Anadarko Petroleum Corporation indicated its interest in drilling for oil offshore Guyana following a significant oil find by ExxonMobil
In July 2015, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation indicated its interest in drilling for oil offshore Guyana following a significant oil find by ExxonMobil earlier in the year. Additionally, several companies have indicated interest and started the negotiation process for exploration and production license for blocks. These include Eco-Atlantic, Oil Quest and Tullow.
Present Offshore Petroleum Concession Licensees - ESSO (1999) ANADARKO (2012), REPSOL (2013), CGX (2012, 2013), NABI Oil and Gas Inc. (2012), Mid-Atlantic Oil (ultra-deep water) (2015); RATIO OIL (ultra-deep water) (2015).
Explorations for petroleum in the two potential prospects in Guyana have encountered many challenges, notably border disputes with both Suriname and Venezuela and financial constraints by the oil companies. Subsequent to the favourable resolution to Guyana on the border dispute with Suriname and, another longstanding border dispute with Venezuela has emerged once again in 2015. However, a peaceful resolution is being sought. Despite these setbacks, both the Guyana Basin and Takutu Basin have remained very favourable since the discoveries of oil at Karanambo-1 well, 1982 and Liza-1 well, 2015 offshore Guyana. Since the latter discovery, there has been a renewed as well as an upsurge in exploration interest. The country is still attracting the attention of major players in the form of Repsol YPF and ExxonMobil, as well as smaller companies such as the Canadian trio of CGX Energy, Tullow and BrazAlta Resources.