Exxon talks oil with Guyanese community in Toronto

By Jasminee Sahoye

Exxon Mobil’s Senior Vice-President, Exploration and New Ventures, Michael Cousins and Geoscientist, Ashlika Persaud

Canadians of Guyanese heritage want to know about Exxon Mobil’s plans should there be an oil spill during their oil production operations in Guyana.

This was among a number of questions posed to the company’s executives during a Town Hall on Guyana’s Oil and Gas Development, organized by the Canadian Council for the Americas, a non-partisan organization, at LeParc Banquet Hall, outside of Toronto.

A full Hall listened to presentations by Exxon Mobil’s Senior Vice-President, Exploration and New Ventures, Michael Cousins and Geoscientist, Ashlika Persaud.  They both alluded to the oil discovery as beyond expectations.

Cousins confirmed that they have a firm plan in place to handle any possible oil spill.  He said it is the company’s hope that nothing of that nature should happen during the more than 20 years of expected production. “We know in the past that it has occurred,” adding that there are safeguards in place to handle any emergency situation.

He also said they are working with the Region to build capacity should there be a gas/oil spill.

He told the audience that the oil is “high quality” and they hope to extract about 1.5 billion barrels of oil. “This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity that is going to benefit lifetimes to come,” said Cousins, who worked at Exxon Mobil for 35 years in a number of countries.  “I have never worked on anything quite like this, this is unique.”

Citing Guyana’s connection with international agencies, the senior vice-president added, “This would allow Guyana to have a much louder voice on the world stage.”

Another question posed was whether Exxon Mobil can disclose the issue of royalties.  Cousins didn’t have much to say on that but mentioned that there is‘sanctity of contract.’ He did say that the government has a share of about 60 percent.  “There is a strong control in the contract by the government.”

Some $4.4 billion has been invested in building infrastructure, Cousins said, and they are hoping to recoup their investment within four and a half year.  “The rest will be shared with Guyana and the consortium.” (Hess and Nexen, now known as China National Offshore Oil Corporation).

He told the audience that there are a number of opportunities in Guyana and to look at exploring those, adding that they are investing US$10 million over five years in Conservation International, US$600 thousand to Iwokrama and refurbishment of UG’s Science Labs and the Gasifier project.

Ashlika Persaud

Guyana-born Geoscientist, Ashlika Persaud proudly talked about her connection with Exxon and how satisfying it has been, knowing that she is part of the oil discovery team.  She highlighted the methods used in locating the oil and the countless hours spent in the process.

An Yin Choo, Guyana’s Consul General in Toronto, told Caribbean Camera that while her office was not directly involved in the event, they assisted in reaching out to the Diaspora.  She said she was pleased with the large turn-out and the efforts made by Exxon to clarify any issues and educate the diaspora.

Asked whether there are enquiries about investment opportunities in Guyana, Choo said there has been interest from a number of companies including from the Middle East, Canadians and the diaspora.