Documents unveiled by the Ministry of Natural Resources on Tuesday show that former President David Granger, not the PPP/C Government, provided Esso Exploration and Production Guyana (EEPGL) – a subsidiary of ExxonMobil – with a one-year extension to further explore for oil in three major offshore blocks. This move prevented ExxonMobil from having to relinquish parts of the Stabroek, Canje, and Corentyne Blocks at varying intervals.
These documents detailed that on July 2, 2020, EEPGL’s Head, Alistair Routledge, approached Granger, seeking an extension. The request was rooted in the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic which hindered exploration activities. Responding with empathy toward the global effects of the pandemic, Granger penned, “…the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana (GCRoG) adopted national measures…to protect the health and safety of its citizens…”
Citing the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act 1986 and the Stabroek Block Petroleum Agreement 2016, Granger decided to offer relief related to the pandemic. As per the directive, the period from March 2020 to March 2021 would be excluded from the agreement’s timeframe. Furthermore, Granger mandated Exxon to submit revised work plans, schedules, and other relevant details.
This revelation is contrary to recent allegations made by the opposition. The opposition leader’s Economic Advisor, Elson Low, lambasted the government last week for not pushing Exxon to relinquish 20% of the Stabroek Block this year, as per its agreement. The Alliance For Change (AFC) also criticized Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, asserting his earlier comments regarding Exxon’s one-year extension were deceptive.
However, setting the record straight, the Ministry of Natural Resources clarified that it was the Granger administration that endorsed the extension for Exxon. The ministry highlighted that there had been consistent dialogue between the Co-V’s and the APNU/AFC government during the pandemic regarding petroleum operations, emphasizing Exxon’s operations as an essential service.
The Stabroek Block which covers 6.6 million acres is equivalent to 600 oil blocks. Come next year, Exxon and its partners, including Hess Corporation and CNOOC Petroleum Guyana Limited, will need to hand over 120 of those blocks back to the state next October, but this will exclude their discoveries.