BASED on the size of our reserves and the huge investments being made, ExxonMobil and its partners will likely be in Guyana for the next two to three decades, at the very least. That means that there’s a very real possibility that Guyanese who are not even born yet may grow up and start their adult lives working in one of the most important oil-and-gas plays in the world.
And new discoveries just keep coming.
Just last week, Exxon announced a new find at the Hammerhead-1 well. This is the production consortium’s ninth find to date, and “proof of concept” that a new and undeveloped area of the Stabroek Block could hold vast reserves.
Hammerhead was drilled in 1,150-metre-deep water to a total depth of 4,225 metres and encountered 197 feet of “high-quality oil-bearing sandstone” southwest of the Liza 1 well.
Though the consortium has not yet fully assessed the amount of recoverable oil and gas at the Hammerhead site, this is about the same thickness of oil-bearing sandstone that was found at the Liza 4 well, which is set to play a crucial role in the development of Liza Phase 2. All indications are that this find is substantial.
According to Exxon’s press releases, the next steps following the discovery include an evaluation of reservoir data to assess reserves and how accessible they are, as well as physical tests. During that time, a second exploration vessel, the Noble Tom Madden, will start exploring Guyanese waters.
The vessel will focus first on drilling exploratory wells at the less explored but now promising Pluma site in the southernmost region of the Stabroek Block near the existing Turbot well.
With additional well sites come a need for additional support and work. Even before this latest discovery, Exxon was already seeking to bolster its Guyanese-born team. Currently, 20 new entry-level workers are set to be trained as operations and maintenance technicians. They will be responsible for maintaining facilities, pipelines, and telecoms.
Given the technical demands of these jobs, the learning curve could be relatively steep. Though it will take time for Guyanese who are new to the industry to get the level of experience needed for supervisory or managerial roles, this kind of training is the first step in preparing Guyanese for increasingly specialised and high-paying roles. Many of the skills learned will be applicable to other critical parts of oil development, like FPSOs (floating production, storage, and offloading), and create an opportunity for knowledge-sharing which can benefit other Guyanese.
As more discoveries are made, these massive FPSO vessels and their support facilities onshore will need highly skilled crewmembers. Already, the first FPSO for Liza Phase 1 is under construction at the Keppel Shipyard in Singapore, and two more are planned for the later phases of the Liza and Payara developments. These massive vessels represent huge opportunities for employment as the production activity ramps up.
The current Guyanese receiving training to join the oil-and-gas industry workforce can be viewed as the tip of the spear. Guyana has an opportunity to establish training and experience programmes which will enable even more Guyanese to gain the skills necessary to work in the industry and capture the many opportunities presented by energy production offshore and the related developments onshore.
As discussed in our first local-content column, medium-to-long-term capacity-building is extremely important in spreading the benefits of oil-and-gas development across the wider population in a sustainable, long-lasting way. Again, Guyana has some competitive advantages to help develop local expertise and industry. As more discoveries are made, like Hammerhead this week, Guyana’s reputation as an oil-and-gas hub will continue to grow. Furthermore, Guyana’s low cost of living is a draw for foreign businesses. This international reputation and the related developing local expertise represent opportunity for Guyana.
Fostering a safe and stable investment environment is critical. Furthermore, early oil-and-gas revenues can provide capital to make much-needed investments in education, jobs training, and infrastructural improvements. New discoveries,such as the one announced this week, only increase the opportunity for Guyana to benefit and grow.