Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 August 2023, 14:31 by Denis Chabrol
The ExxonMobil-led consortium of Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL) had been granted one-year extensions of its three prospecting licences in the Stabroek, Canje and Kaieteur offshore oil blocks during the latter months of the David Granger-led administration because of the COVID-19 virus, according to letters released on Tuesday by the Ministry of Natural Resources.
The almost identical letters that were signed by Mr Granger on July 24, 2020 and dispatched to EEPGL President Alistair Routledge indicate that the licences for each block were extended as from March 11, 2020 t0 March 10, 2021 “are not counted in assessing elapsed time applicable.” That force majeure had also provided for a quarterly review from September 9, 2020 “to determine whether adjustments to this period are warranted.”
It is unclear whether those reviews had actually been conducted, but after the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) had been declared the winner of the March 2020 general and regional elections five months later in August, the new administration had moved quickly to reopen the country’s economic activities backed up large-scale availability of vaccines.
Eventually the COVID-19 measures were relaxed in March 2022 after, globally and locally fewer cases, including deaths, had been recorded since the first reported death in March, 2020.
Meanwhile, the Alliance For Change (AFC), which had been a part of the coalition-led government, said ExxonMobil’s exploration and production operations had not been affected by COVID-19. No mention was made of the infection of 14 workers aboard an ExxonMobil-hired drillship offshore Guyana in April, 2021.
AFC’s then Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson recalled at that time that special government approvals had been given for charter flights to fly in and change-of-crews and the establishment of health sector workers at a number of hotels where a number of flats had been designated as isolation areas.
“To say that anything that the Government of Guyana during 2020, COVID time, at least the coalition government up to August 2020 did anything to hamper Exxon’s operations is a total untruth,” he said. Mr Patterson challenged the incumbent People’s Progressive Party Civic administration to prove whether relaxed COVID measures had impacted adversely on Guyana’s oil production. If they’re saying that the measures that they put in place post August 2020 hampered the oil production activities then theyu should come clean but as far as we are concerned, there is no reason whatsoever to grant them an extension because of COVID from anything done by the coalition administration,”he said.
Dr Vincent Adams, Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the coalition government, was equally confident that the American supermajor’s operations had not been affected by COVID. “Nothing stopped Exxon, their production was not impacted. It might have been impacted by other things such as flaring when we had to let them shut down their operations for flaring but COVID-19 had nothing to do with their impact,” he said. Dr Adams is also an executive member of the AFC.
EEPGL holds 45 percent, Hess 30 percent and CNOOC 25 percent in the Stabroek Block.