Though all arrangements are on track for Exxon's offshore exploration programme, drilling may not commence until after mid 2009, by which time the seismic work would have been completed, says Petroleum Manager at the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) Newell Dennison.
Speaking to this newspaper recently, Dennison said that there is to be a meeting between officials of the US company and the Government in the near term to better assess its work programme. Almost a year ago, a high level Exxon team had visited Guyana, meeting with President Bharrat Jagdeo ahead of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) tribunal award. He said that the company is still on the go with its programme in Guyana and is working out details in the wake of the Arbitration award. With the decision falling in favour of Guyana, a number of intricacies had to be redrafted to reflect the new reality. According to Dennison, Exxon has indicated that it may be able to combine all or most of the stages of its seismic work.
"There may be a combining of the general grid and the second grid, possibly a more expanded general grid," he said, about the company's seismic work, necessary to establish whether there are sufficient resources below the surface to commence a drill programme.
He said that though the properties of Repsol YPF and CGX Energy Inc were intact post-resolution, Exxon lost a bit of their acreage. "We have to impose a grid that we use to determine the blocks," Dennison said. To do this, the GGMC is working with the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission.
He said that all the companies will be keeping almost the same timelines for the seismic work since such coordination will work in their favour. According to Dennison, the timeline given for the wrapping up of seismic work is the end of 2009.
But he said that some companies may be able to commence their seismic work earlier, as announced by CGX some months ago. He also pointed out that the end of the seismic work doesn't necessarily mean that drilling for oil will commence immediately afterwards.
In 1999, Exxon's Guyana affiliate, Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Ltd (EEPGL), had signed a production sharing contract (PSC) with the Government of Guyana. This PSC covered the Stabroek Block, which Exxon was awarded during 1998. The Stabroek Block, licensed to Exxon, consists of 17 million acres off the edge of the continental shelf. Seismic work had commenced but had to be postponed because of the Suriname border dispute. This is the largest block in terms of acreage to be explored.
Exxon is currently engaged in a high stakes dispute with Venezuela over the nationalization of its operations there.