Sep 25, 2020 News
– Associate Professor, Dr. Blackman
When it comes to the petroleum industry, several stakeholders have stated that they will be looking to see if the Irfaan Ali government will demonstrate that it is capable of ensuring that a sound regulatory framework is in place.
In fact, Dr. Terrence Richard Blackman, a member of the Guyanese Diaspora and an Associate Professor of Mathematics at the Medgar Evers College, USA, noted in one of his recently published commentaries that the matter of robust regulation raises its head when one considers the approval the government is expected to provide for ExxonMobil’s Payara Field Development Plan (FDP).
Dr. Blackman recalled that the Department of Energy has, for more than seven months, been engaged in a review of the FDP alongside UK firm, Bayphase Oil and Gas Consultants.
The Associate Professor reminded that the Ali government had decided to review the work already undertaken by Bayphase. This was being done by a small team led by former Premier of Alberta, Canada, Alison Redford. The PPP government had also said that Redford was hired thanks to a grant from the Canadian High Commission.
Her team consisted of the former Deputy Minister of Energy in Newfoundland, Canada; senior international reservoir engineers; and Mr. Jay Park, Q.C, Managing Partner of Park Energy Law based in Canada and the United Kingdom.
The review of Bayphase’s work has been completed and the finishing touches are being added to the draft license.
To the objective observer, the Associate Professor said this review and subsequent “re-review do not describe an optimal state of regulatory affairs.”
Dr. Blackman said it is clear that a small team cannot adequately “re-review the field development plan for an undertaking such as Payara over a few months…”
Looking at this matter from ExxonMobil’s perspective, Dr. Blackman noted that the development planning of a deep-water oilfield directly influences production costs and benefits. He said that this, coupled with the uncertainties of the crude oil price and the reservoir and the special production requirements, makes it always, technically difficult, to optimize development planning of deep-water oilfields. The Associate Professor said it is therefore prudent for Guyanese stakeholders to carefully consider the intersection of the Guyanese people’s interests and that of ExxonMobil.
He said, too, that it is vital for ExxonMobil to be mindful that its actions regarding the delays caused by the regulatory agencies, not be perceived as scare tactics, which are cynically used by multi-national companies doing business in undeveloped countries.
In this regard, Dr. Blackman was referring to comments that were made by ExxonMobil’s Country Manager here, Alister Routledge, to the effect that the oil giant will take its investments elsewhere if it does not get its way with the Payara licence.
With such an approach, Dr. Blackman said the perception that ExxonMobil’s actions are solely motivated by its enrichment will easily find root in the resonant Guyanese narrative of foreigners holding the country hostage, doing as they please, and destroying the environment while taking all the wealth of the country.
To this end, he strongly contended that ExxonMobil must continue to embrace regulatory and environmental standards in Guyana that go beyond international norms and practices and it must clearly distinguish between criticism of the Guyanese regulatory bureaucracy and the legitimate national aspirations of the Guyanese people.
Looking ahead, the Associate Professor articulated that the people and Government of Guyana must require ExxonMobil to live up to its environmental standards.
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