Guyana, Suriname to host strategic summit on energy security

0
Guyana President Dr Irfaan Ali and his Surinamese counterpart, President Chandrikapersad Santokhi,

President Dr Irfaan Ali and his Surinamese counterpart, President Chandrikapersad Santokhi, will be hosting a summit on energy security that will feature their other partners on the Arco Norte corridor – Brazil and French Guiana (an overseas territorial collectivity of France).

This announcement was made by the Guyanese leader during a joint press conference on Thursday. President Santokhi led a high-level delegation from Suriname for a four-day visit to Guyana which ended on Friday.

One of the outcomes of extensive discussions over the past four days is in the area of energy security and exploring the potential between the two countries. The Guyanese and Surinamese leaders said they are looking to engage neighbouring partners on the matter.

“Before the end of this year, President Santokhi and I will be spearheading efforts to bring together the President of Brazil, bring together France, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana into a strategic summit to discuss issues of energy security, and also to discuss the integration of our plans with their long-term development thrust,” President Ali revealed.

Guyana is a party to a Memorandum of Understanding on the Northern Arc (Arco Norte) Interconnection Project which seeks to evaluate the feasibility of a possible collaboration on the energy transmission system for the electric interconnection of Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana and the northern cities of Brazil.

The project had been in talks for several years. In fact, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) had conducted baseline and pre-feasibility studies in 2016 and 2017 on the “Arco Norte Electrical Interconnection” project.

The Bank stated that the main benefits of such a project would be lower-cost generation for all countries involved; potentially lowered electricity prices for consumers in Guyana and Suriname; more secure supply; reduced carbon dioxide emissions and export earnings, especially for Guyana.

Already, Guyana plans to pipe gas from the Stabroek Block offshore, where oil production and exploration activities are ongoing. Similarly, Suriname is also a new oil frontier. With the growing hydrocarbon discoveries offshore these two neighbouring countries, the expectation is that the gas in the Guyana-Suriname basin would be used to power this Arco Norte corridor.

During Thursday’s press conference, President Ali noted that having recognised the potential of gas between the two countries, a decision was taken to establish a working group to develop a “Joint Gas Strategy”.  This, he added, is being developed within the context of the Arco Norte plan.

The Arco Norte Region (Photo: IDB)

“So yes, the joint energy plan is definitely linked and that is why we are working towards that bigger summit with Brazil, France, French Guiana and Guyana. I don’t want to go into the details of this, because very soon we will have the technical team meeting, and we have agreed that they will be briefing the Private Sector and the media when we come up with that overarching strategy from the joint team,” the Head of State said.

Ali went on to say that both himself and President Santokhi have opened up the conversation of energy security for the corridor, and especially, to supply northern Brazil.

Against this backdrop, Ali underscored the importance of engaging the players on the corridor as Guyana and Suriname seek to develop a long-term gas strategy.

Questioned about the quantum of gas in the Guyana-Suriname basin to facilitate this initiative, the Guyanese leader indicated that this will be determined in a strategic analysis that will be undertaken by the working group.

“There are some stats that were presented to us for internal consumption from Staatsolie (Suriname’s State-owned oil company) … But as I said, let the technical team work, and then that presentation will be made in relation to the specific question on quantum, and that will determine the size of the initiative. And it will link to the question in terms of value-added and what is the best possible return on the gas, and where the greatest possibility lies for a sustainable return,” he noted.

To this end, however, Guyana’s President said that this collaboration between the two South American neighbours will not be limited to the oil and gas sector.

“That strategy would be linked to the frontier development of both Guyana and Suriname. That includes infrastructure, industries – manufacturing, natural resources, the bauxite industry on both sides will be part of that strategic outlook in developing opportunities and exploiting the great potential on both sides of the Corentyne River,” Ali stated.

This sentiment was shared by his Surinamese counterpart, who posited that a proposal for the Joint Gas Strategy is expected “within a short period of time”. He too emphasised the potential benefits this will bring to the two nations.

“We are in support of an integral approach for the development on the west side of Suriname and the east side of Guyana, and the developments are in the area of oil and gas exploitation but more the gas side, to use it as cheap energy for the development of the industry on both sides… And the export of gas energy to Brazil,” President Santokhi said during Thursday’s joint press briefing.