Jul 07, 2019 News
Last May, the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) officially confirmed with the local media that it was conducting an investigation into the award of the Kaieteur and Canje oil blocks.
These blocks were awarded by former President, Donald Ramotar, to three companies just before the 2015 General and Regional Elections.Heading that probe is SARA’s Special Assistant, Eric Phillips. The SARA official has continuously told members of the media that the probe of the Kaieteur and Canje blocks is necessary since the firms that got the licences– Ratio Guyana, Ratio Energy Limited, and Mid-Atlantic Oil and Gas–have no track record or wherewithal to independently explore and develop the blocks.
However, documents from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) show that Phillips, who also has no track record in oil exploration, is one of the beneficial owners of a company called ABR Oil and Gas Exploration.
This company has applied for a licence to explore the block that is adjoining to Kaieteur and Canje.
Referred to as Block C, this offshore concession, which Phillips has an interest in is fixed in ultra deep waters.
According to the application seen by this newspaper, the ABR beneficial owners are listed as Seasoned Engineer, Charles Ceres (25%); former Guyana Goldfields Country Manager, Violet Smith (25%); Osafo George, a local businessman (25 %) and Eric Phillips (15 %).
None of these individuals has any track record of exploration and development of offshore blocks, which are located in ultra-deep waters. The only two companies in the world with this capability are ExxonMobil and Petrobras.
The application also called for the full particulars of technical competence and previous experience in oil prospecting or oil field development work including a record of petroleum exploration and production in Guyana and elsewhere.
To this, the applicants noted the following using two lines: “Country Manager- Takutu Oil and Gas and Groundstar Resources and Engineering Consultant- Takutu Oil and Gas and Groundstar Resources.”
This publication understands that Takutu Oil and Gas Inc. was formed by Groundstar Resources Ltd, a Canadian company, and is in partnership with another Canadian firm called Canacol Energy Ltd.
Before relinquishing the licence to drill the onshore Takutu block, both companies had done some gravity survey on the block and had drilled one well.
Furthermore, the application for the licence lists two individuals as ABR’s technical experts: Patrick Assad Ceres, who is an environmental engineer; he happens to be the son of Charles Ceres and Aisha Jean-Baptiste, a geologist, is the daughter of Violet Smith.
The applicants noted that they have US$5M at present to expend on operations under the licence being applied for.
These would include gathering geo-scientific data, its subsequent assessment along with purchasing of additional data, identification of potential targets and drilling of prospects.
They further noted that the company is Guyanese-owned and they intend to utilise Guyanese petroleum engineers and geologists in its work should the licence be granted.
Receipt # 6100198 as seen by this newspaper, shows that $394,000 was paid to GGMC for the licence through the Bank of Nova Scotia. The payment was received on October 16, 2016 at 14:24 hrs.
Kaieteur News tried several times yesterday to contact Phillips for a comment on this issue but he did not take the calls. Kaieteur News then messaged the SARA official via Facebook Messenger and indicated that his comment is being sought for a story.
When this was explained, he said that Kaieteur News should speak with Charles Ceres on the matter. Asked if he is still part of ABR, Phillips said, “No…I am not.”
Up to press time, there was no response when this newspaper asked Phillips to state if his departure from the company was before or after he was put in charge of the SARA probe into the Kaieteur and Canje oil blocks.
When Ceres was contacted, he explained that Phillips was one of the founding members of ABR, which stands for African Business Roundtable and he was not aware that he had resigned. The engineer confirmed that Block C was applied for by the African Business Roundtable.
He made it pellucid however, that he is no longer with ABR and had resigned since his 65th birthday, which was September last.
A few months ago, Head of the Energy Department, Dr. Mark Bynoe, had said that Guyana may be ready for a next licensing round of its offshore blocks, come the first quarter of 2020.
Dr. Bynoe had said that the licensing round is likely to be subjected to an open bid process. Ceres told this newspaper that he agrees with this move as it would maximise more profits for Guyana.
Dr. Bynoe had noted however that he would not want to go forward with the licensing round with Guyana’s old laws. He insisted that the principal Act, being the Petroleum Exploration and Production Act, needs to be reviewed, with the necessary amendments passed by the National Assembly.
It was hoped that that would have been achieved this year.
Furthermore, Dr. Bynoe revealed that his Department is slated to complete a gap analysis of existing legislation. He said that this gap analysis and the reviewed principle Act will set a strong foundation of transparency and accountability for the licensing round that would follow.
He said, too, that it will allow for the Department to draft any replacement or supplementary law that it might need for the sector.
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