New government takes office in Guyana

Five months after the country’s 2 March election, Guyana has a new President and government. The final decision to accept the outcome of the recount which showed the opposition PPP/C winning decisively, came as both ExxonMobil and Hess indicated the country’s potential as a major western hemisphere producer of oil.

The swearing in of the new President, Irfaan Ali, followed months of stalemate that saw an exhaustive recount of ballots, an attempt by the Chief Elections Officer to submit an alternative set of results, a succession of legal actions that went all the way to the country’s supreme court, the Caribbean Court of Justice, and travel sanctions being imposed by the US government on leading members of the now former APNU+AFC government.

The fast-moving events came on 2 August after Chief Election Officer finally submitted the results of the recount which showed a PPP/C win to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chair Claudette Singh who then declared Ali the new President and his swearing in.

In his inaugural address, Ali promised a term built on unity of the nation and trust. Former Army Chief of Staff, Brigadier Mark Phillips was sworn in as Prime Minister. Ali also announced that former PPP President Bharrat Jagdeo would serve as Vice President, Gail Teixeira as Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs, and Anil Nandlall as Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs.

The swearing in followed days of uncertainty but concluded when former President David Granger indicated in a statement that he was ready to concede but said that his party would file an elections petition challenging the declared outcome. In his statement he noted that the APNU+ AFC coalition continued to maintain that anomalies and irregularities uncovered during the recount process cannot be accepted but observed that GECOM had ‘a legal obligation as a result of the recent ruling of the Court of Appeal, to proceed with a declaration’.

Oil majors indicate country’s offshore potential

The announcement came just days after the Hess Corporation announced that an appraisal of the Yellowtail well on the offshore Stabroek Block it shares with ExxonMobil and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) has indicated two additional reservoirs. In an earnings call the company indicated that its finds at Yellowtail-2, and Yellowtail-1 had high quality reservoirs “demonstrating the world class quality of this basin”. The statement added that ‘this additional resource is currently being evaluated and will help form the basis for a potential future development’.

Announcing separately its desire to move ahead rapidly on its discoveries in the Stabroek field, ExxonMobil told its stockholders that, in contrast with other parts of the world, it would be maintaining levels of capital expenditure in Guyana and was seeking quick approval for its third well, Payara, while warning that further delays could be economically damaging to Guyana.

In May, the Director of the country’s Department of Energy, Dr Mark Bynoe, had said that the delay in the approval process for Exxon’s third well was due to unresolved issues surrounding its development plan and Guyana’s current political crisis.

At the time Exxon had indicated that its forecast production of 750,000 bpd by 2025 would be delayed by about six months to a year.

ExxonMobil has made 16 discoveries since May 2015 and has estimated it will be in Guyana for at least 40 years. The company is still to develop some 14 other wells in the Stabroek Block area which is so far estimated to hold 8 bn barrels of oil equivalent. Exxon plans to also start works in the Canje and Kaieteur blocks where it is partnering with other companies.

According to Stabroek News, Guyana received about US$35 per barrel of its crude when it sold the second of the five lifts of 1m barrels of oil that it is entitled to this year. The paper had reported that Guyana will continue to sell it portion of recovered oil at Brent market prices and not hedge.