Guyana says offshore oil activity is unprecedented

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — Guyana's top energy official said Thursday that interest in oil drilling and development operations in the South American country is unprecedented.

Department of Energy head Mark Bynoe told The Associated Press that the country has never seen such "interest in deep and ultra-deep concessions" and is stepping up its efforts to promote activity.

Repsol of Spain, Tullow Oil of the United Kingdom and CGX Energy of Canada will drill four separate offshore wells in the Stabroek Block in coming weeks. Exxon Mobil says it has made 13 discoveries in the block since 2015 and will begin producing up to 120,000 barrels of oil per day by early 2020.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the basin has more than 15 billion barrels of oil.

In an interview, Bynoe said that Guyana's government will now conduct seismic studies in the shallow part of the continental shelf to determine whether there are commercial quantities of oil and gas, as is the case in deeper areas.

"That will enable us to generate information packages to promote that part of the basin," he said. "It will also help us to determine the size and shape of any blocks we give out after this."

He said authorities are likely to continue handing out contracts in bidding rounds.

"It will be foolhardy to sign bilateral agreements given the level of interest," he said.