Sep 24, 2020 News
You’ve heard that Guyana can make a killing from producing oil. That’s true. However, even before oil is produced in a block, Guyana can make hundreds of millions; sometimes even billions of dollars, from mining data on those blocks and knowing how to use that data to its advantage.
In a recent interview on Kaieteur Radio’s Petroleum 101, Petroleum Consultant, Dr. Jan Mangal, explained how Guyana can give itself an advantage if it owns and studies data on its blocks.
“Seismic data,” Dr. Mangal said, “is what oil companies need to decide whether they will invest in a particular area in a block, in a country. By acquiring ownership of that data – and not only for Exxon, for any other company that has done seismic in Guyana – Guyana can take that data and better understand what is actually out there in its own waters.”
The data is amassed from seismic surveys, which entail generating sound waves that are transmitted into the earth and recording the energy that is returned from changes in rock layers.
“Guyana needs to be in control of the data,” Dr. Mangal told Kaieteur Radio last week. “Guyana still does not have the data and information. Exxon is still in a position of control because it has the data.”
In 2018, Exxon’s then Head of Government and Public Affairs, Kimberly Brasington said that approximately $140M was spent shooting the company’s 20,000km seismic campaign over the Stabroek Block. She said that this was ExxonMobil’s largest proprietary seismic campaign.
“It was required because no 3D data existed for the block. The seismic data is what helped us figure out where to drill the wells,” Brasington had stated.
Furthermore, the official had said that approximately $65M was spent over many years utilizing Geology and Geo-science experts and engineering teams to identify the potential prospects that the company and its partners wanted to drill and then to design the concept for safe and successful drilling.
Seismic surveys have also been conducted on the Canje and Kaieteur blocks. Dr. Mangal said that Guyana owns the data – all of it, and that getting it would put Guyana in a position that allows it to leverage the value of its offshore patrimony and break the sizeable monopoly which ExxonMobil currently enjoys in the area.
The former Presidential Advisor said that the government should hire experts and have servers installed to handle the data. He noted that it would be an expensive venture, but it would be worth it.
Earlier this year, Kaieteur News had noted that oil companies would prefer it if the data they have accumulated on areas they have studied are kept secret. That’s because the revelation of that data to other oil companies and the general public could make the area in which they operate more competitive, by bringing in other companies, and billions of dollars in signing bonuses from those who want to get in on a piece of the lucrative Guyana-Suriname basin.
Mangal said that with the data, government can even challenge oil companies on where they decide to explore for oil.
“With these [development] projects coming along,” he added, “the government should have acquired all the data for Liza one, for the project, the FPSO, the wells, in a real-time mode of benchmarking and checking. So everything Exxon does, the government can say, ‘Yep that’s according to the plan’, ‘Nope that’s not according to the plan.”
At this point, however, Guyana is heavily reliant on what oil companies tell it. As Mangal noted, as long as Government is ignorant, oil companies will have more latitude to play games.
Suriname has already embarked on a process of capitalizing on offshore data it has gathered on its own. On its website, the State-run oil company of Suriname, Staatsolie explained how its work in the near shore areas, though not yielding material discoveries, have already done enough to confirm the “potential” of oil in the coastal area. With this data, the government announced earlier this year that it would farm out stakes in the area to make money and allow oil companies to operate competitively.
Earlier this year, Energy Department Head, Dr. Mark Bynoe, told reporters that the government intended to execute 2D and 3D seismic surveys before the country heads to its next licensing round for oil blocks. He said that it was in the process of procuring a consultant to conduct the surveys. It is unclear whether the new government will continue with this plan.
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