ExxonMobil seeking environmental approval for 35 exploration wells

0
The proposed area in the Stabroek Block for the 35 well campaign

ExxonMobil affiliate Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL) is currently seeking authorisation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for 35 exploration/appraisal wells in the Stabroek Block.

According to EEPGL’s application, if all requisite approvals are granted then the drilling of the wells is expected to start in the 2023 third quarter, with the proposed drilling campaign coming to an end by the fourth quarter of 2028.

“The process of drilling these wells will be very similar to the process followed during prior EEPGL exploration drilling campaigns and may include mobilisation, drilling, ancillary processes (possibly including sidetracks, well tests, and/or vertical seismic profiling), and demobilisation… the specific features and activities for each well are still being finalised and will be provided to the EPA in advance of spudding,” EEPGL explained.

According to the company, the wells will be drilled using any one of its six drill ships currently operational – the Stena Carron, the Stena DrillMAX, the Noble Bob Douglas, the Noble Tom Madden, the Noble Don Taylor, and the Noble Sam Croft. And while the exact locations are still being finalised, there is a general location that has been identified.

“Onshore facilities to be used will include pier/port/quayside space with sufficient draft for receipt of cargo vessels bringing materials to and from the shore bases; marine support vessels will be used to service the offshore activities and operations,” the company further said in its application.

Meanwhile, EPA in its screening report on the application noted that the schedule for the drilling campaign is only a preliminary one and can be affected by new discoveries and other external factors.

“While some of the 35 wells will be drilled for exploration purposes, it is also possible that some of the wells may be drilled as appraisal wells within the proximity of previously drilled exploration areas,” EPA also said in its screening report on the application
“If discoveries are found at particular locations, subsequent wells could be drilled in the vicinity of such locations to further assess the commerciality of the discoveries,” the agency further explained.

In EPA’s screening report, the agency explained that while any ill-effects from the 35 exploration/appraisal well project by itself can be mitigated, the number of similar activities that have already been carried out in the Stabroek Block may have significantly affected the environment. The agency therefore decided that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was needed to assess the project in the context of the other projects.

“Given the number of exploratory projects that have occurred in the Stabroek Block and oil production projects that are currently ongoing in the same block, then in accordance with Section 17 (1) 1, it is recommended that an Environmental Impact Assessment of the cumulative effects of project be conducted (ie Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA).”

“Further, it is also recommended that the Project be placed on 30 days’ Public Notice in keeping with the Environmental Authorisation Regulations. Once there are No Objections/Appeals from the public during publication time, the decision of the Agency shall be communicated to the Developer,” EPA further noted.

The oil rich Stabroek Block is 6.6 million acres (26,800 square kilometres). Exxon, through subsidiary EEPGL, is the operator and holds 45 per cent interest in the Block. Hess Guyana Exploration Ltd holds 30 per cent interest, and CNOOC Petroleum Guyana Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of CNOOC Limited, holds the remaining 25 per cent interest.

So far, Exxon’s total investments in Guyana total GY$1.3 trillion on its own and over GY$3 trillion with its partners. Additionally, the joint venturer exploration and production plans up to 2025 will likely increase their investments to more than GY$6 trillion.

ExxonMobil has said it anticipates at least six projects offshore Guyana will be online by 2027, with developmental drilling having been recently started on the second one, the Liza Phase 2 project. Production has already started in the second phase, with the Liza Utility floating, production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel in operation.

The third project – the Payara Development – will meanwhile target an estimated resource base of about 600 million oil-equivalent barrels, and was at one point considered to be the largest single planned investment in the history of Guyana.

Meanwhile, the Yellowtail development, which will be oil giant ExxonMobil’s fourth development in Guyana’s waters, will turn out to be the single largest development so far in terms of barrels per day of oil, with a mammoth 250,000 bpd targeted.