Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 April 2017, 12:23 by Denis Chabrol
by Gary Eleazar
ExxonMobil, the US-based oil giant gearing for production offshore Guyana, has confirmed that there will be sufficient natural gas in the reserves to supply a 200 megawatt (MW electricity generation plant which would make the establishment of an alumina plant in Guyana feasible once again, but government is still looking to independently verify this.
“There is going to be excess gas and we are told that we are told that we may be able to access about 50 million cubic feet per day which, by calculation, may give the country a 200 megawatt natural gas energy generating plant… could become the answer to all of our generation problems,” he said.
He said Guyana would certainly not be flaring the gas but will be selling some of it to neighbouring countries and possibly power an alumina plant. “The idea of the alumina plant can now become feasible and real again because a plant of that nature and size requires high energy and the natural gas plant could produce that energy,” the minister said.
Guyana’s closed its alumina plant in 1982, resulting in the country exporting only unprocessed bauxite that is much cheaper than the refined mineral.
This is according to an update provided to the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources today (April 19, 2017) by Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, who said the quantities were only confirmed in the past month having repeatedly pressed ExxonMobil to supply the information. “With consistent and persistent pushing from the ministry, we have been able to so far- and I believe it’s going to improve- we have been able to identify that we can get between 30 to 50 million cubic metres per day,” he said.
Opposition Member of Parliament Odinga Lumumba questioned government’s reliance on ExxonMobil to supply the information on what quantities of natural gas will be available for use but was told of an independent consultant employed in order to, among other things, verify the information supplied by ExxonMobil.
Minister Trotman had earlier told the Committee that according to information supplied ExxonMobil, some 50 million cubic feet of gas per day will be available for Guyana since the remainder will be used to maintain the pressure in the oil wells in order to ensure efficient productivity.
Lumumba sought to dissuade the idea of an alumina plant since that will require some 400 MW of electricity but was told that the size of the plant will determine the energy required. The Minister of Natural Resources responded favourably to Lumumba’s suggestion that an independent analysis should be conducted to determine whether water or natural gas should be used to pressurise the wells to extract oil commercially.
With regards his query on whether government was relying solely on ExxonMobil for information supplied, Minister Trotman sought to assure the committee that this was not the case since government has hired an expert to verify the information provided by the oil company..
He did caution that companies would in fact seek to manage expectations in the data supplied but, “Government is using several different means of corroborating and cross referencing the information….so in the process that we are currently doing – that is approving or going through the application for the production license, this is one of the things that will have to be verified and we’re using other independent sources and contractors to tell us what there is,” he said.
He said, too, that at time of production government will install the relevant equipment to independently measure the oil and gas at the point of extraction. “At the time of production, one of the things we will have to do is put almost gauges and pumps so that we can independently verify quantities so, if it is that we are moving a hundred thousand barrels per day, that is what it is… There is going to be real-time monitoring onshore and on the vessel by personnel on a 24-hour basis to ensure that the production is as it said it would be,” said the Minister of Natural Resources.
He said government has no intention of squandering the natural gas that will be made available to the country but that the matter will require extensive studies.
According to Trotman, transporting the natural gas from the wells to an energy plant will be an expensive venture, whether shipped by container or using a pipeline.
He was quick to point out too that in future Guyana will have excess electricity since government is committed to the development of renewable energy through sources such as hydro, solar and wind. “I can say with certainty Guyana shall be going in the direction of renewable energy,” saying even with the use of natural gas, this will not displace the pursuit of renewable energy, “so there is going to be excess power generation.”
The Minister noted that it would be expensive to run a gas pipeline more than 100 miles offshore Guyana, and so government would have to consider shipping the fuel in vessels.