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Exxon finds more oil off Guyana, Jamaica ramps up seismic surveys

Bert Wilkinson | 4/6/2017, midnight
American oil giant ExxonMobil has reported major success with its latest probe of its Snoek well off Guyana, saying that ...
Flag of Guyana

American oil giant ExxonMobil has reported major success with its latest probe of its Snoek well off Guyana, saying that nearly eight weeks of drilling have paid off with positive results in the latest of six wells drilled so far.

Only one of the six has turned up dry, as the country that hosts the headquarters of the 15-nation Caribbean single trading bloc is about to become one of the world’s latest producers of oil and gas.

Exxon is targeting a possible startup of production in mid to late 2019, pushing authorities in the Afro-led government to scramble to transform the country from decades of dependence of exports of gold, sugar, rice, bauxite and timber into one dominated by oil and gas.

But Guyana is not the only member of the bloc scrambling to find its own oil and gas and lessen dependence on foreign suppliers to keep the wheels of industry turning.

Encouraged by live oil seeps pointed out by local fishermen off Jamaica recently, Tullow Oil of the United Kingdom is getting ready to ramp up seismic surveys of a large offshore bloc off southern Jamaica.

The company had done 2D seismic work in recent months and officials said back then that they weren’t that encouraged by the data from the exploratory surveys. But once experts had determined that the oil seeps were live rather than waste from cruise ships or other vessels, the company quickly readied itself for a second and more intense seismic survey phase that was expected to start in late March.

But the two countries are not the only members of the bloc of nations pushing to find commercial quantities of oil and gas. Both Barbados and Grenada believe they have good reasons to do so.

Authorities in Barbados, have, in recent years, been dividing the seafloor into offshore blocks, giving concessions to a raft of international firms, including Repsol of Spain, to conduct 2D and 3D seismic surveys.

Part of the thinking is that less than 150 miles of water separate Barbados from oil and gas-rich Trinidad. The island must have offshore oil because it already produces approximately 1000 barrels of oil per day from a slew of onshore wells.

In Grenada, the thinking is similar because the island is very close, less than 100 miles from Tobago, Trinidad’s smaller sister island, so authorities there are also getting ready to hand out blocks to international firms.

As the scramble continues in the region to find large quantities of hydrocarbons, Exxon said it has already moved its oil rig to a seventh location and is confident that even larger quantities will be found in Guyana in the coming weeks.

The oil found so far is estimated to be worth about $200 billion, more than 50 times more than national gross domestic product.

Jamaican officials say they are sitting on data showing that up to 3 billion barrels of oil are lying near the seabed. After all, the island is near to Cuba and is not far from Mexico and the U.S., all major oil producers.

Tourism is the country’s main foreign exchange earner.