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Regional News

May 15, 2009
Oil prospects
Stabroek News

To its considerable credit CGX has done much to keep hope alive as far as Guyana's prospects for a commercially viable oil find are concerned. After the June 2000 expulsion of its rig from Guyana's maritime zone by Surinamese gunboats, the company maintained its interest in Guyana's oil prospects through a lengthy arbitration process, occasionally issuing timely reminders of its continued commitment to contributing to a process that would lead to the discovery and exploitation of oil in Guyana.

Since the legal resolution of the maritime dispute CGX has maintained its interest in Guyana’s oil prospects and last Tuesday's media briefing by a contingent of its top brass headed by Chairman Kerry Sully was clearly intended to serve as part of that continuous process of keeping Guyanese interested in the country's oil potential.

By continuing to remind of what it clearly believes are Guyana's outstanding prospects for discovering and eventually exploiting large deposits of oil CGX is - in an important sense- helping to impact positively on a national mood that has long been burdened by a condition of persistent poverty. Prospects of eventual oil wealth serve to hold out some measure of hope that we are not, after all, doomed to a permanent condition of underdevelopment.

All of this, of course, is not driven by altruism. After all, Mr Sully has himself conceded that the Guyana/ Suriname Basin represents a "major new frontier" as far as the global oil industry is concerned, that it represents the "second underexploited basin in the world" and that's eventual takings from an oil find here will be well worth the time, money and trouble that it has invested up to this time.

Last Tuesday, through a thicket of statistical information and technical explanations and projections Mr. Sully sought, first, to explain the scientific considerations, the procedures and the timelines associated with the discovery and exploitation of oil. What was perhaps most significant about his presentation was the manner in which he sought to balance the actualization of events in the unfolding process of first, finding then exploiting oil, against various assumptions in such a manner as to - as best he could - provide some sort of rough timeline for Guyana becoming an oil economy. And while he made it clear that he was mindful of the risk of raising expectations prematurely he appeared at least to understand that coming from a poor, underdeveloped country, it was by no means unreasonable that people would seek to clear away the thicket of technical information to discern even the smallest hint of that year, that decade, even, in which the first barrel of Guyana crude will be ready for refining. That, frankly, is the way in which ordinary Guyanese relate to oil and its prospects.

Guyana is by no means a stranger to projections that paint a picture of an economy and a society where fortunes are dramatically transformed by what we are told are considerable deposits of oil. There is, frankly, a profound sense of national weariness with promises of petro dollars that have come nowhere near to bearing fruit; and if Mr. Sully's refusal to engage in offering speculative timelines that ignite a national mood of excessive excitement while ignoring all of the complex variables that attend the search for oil is altogether understandable, that does not change one iota the sense of fervent hope that sooner rather than later we can at least come closer to a timeline that will at least give us something to hold on to.

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