ExxonMobil’s slew of major oil discoveries in offshore Guyana since 2015 has seen the deeply impoverished former British colony become a hotspot for offshore drilling activity. That has sparked considerable interest in the oil potential of neighboring Suriname. The one-time Dutch colony, which until July 2020 was embroiled in a series of scandals involving former President Desi Bouterse, shares the Guyana-Suriname Basin. That basin is the focal point of one of the world’s largest offshore drilling booms with recent discoveries pointing to it possessing greater petroleum potential than was assessed by the USGS in 2001. Suriname, which has modest proven oil reserves of 89 million barrels and is pumping 14,000 barrels daily from onshore fields, is poised to enjoy an epic oil boom on potentially a similar scale to that occurring in Guyana where 2021 GDP grew by a stunning 19.9%. This has the potential to significantly boost the impoverished former Dutch colony’s economy which was sharply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is believed that offshore Suriname possesses considerable oil potential. TotalEnergies, which is the operator, and 50% partner Apache have made a slew of quality light oil discoveries in offshore Suriname Block 58. The first was at the Maka Central-1 well which was drilled to a depth of 20,670 feet and found light oil and condensate with API gravities of 40 degrees to 60 degrees. The latest discovery occurred at the Krabdagu-1 well, located 11 miles south-east of the Sapakara South-1 appraisal well, which was drilled to a depth of 17,300 feet, It is the fifth quality discovery in Block 58 with 295 feet of net oil pay identified in what Apache described as “good quality reservoirs”.
Recently, Apache announced the successful flow testing of the Krabdagu well. According to the U.S.-based driller, data indicates there are oil resources in place of up to 180 million barrels. The crude oil found was identified as light with API gravities of 35 degrees to 37 degrees. That successful appraisal drilling comes after the November 2021 announcement of a successful flow test at the Sapakara South appraisal well which identified a single oil reservoir holding 325 million to 375 million barrels of light black oil with a 34-degree API.
Suriname’s Block 58 is believed to be situated on the same petroleum fairway which runs through Guyana’s offshore Stabroek Block. It is here that Exxon, along with partners Hess and CNOOC, has made over 30 high-quality discoveries which are estimated to contain 11 billion barrels of recoverable oil resources. The latest developments in Block 58 support investment bank Morgan Stanley’s 2020 calculations that it contains 6.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent resources. If that modeling is proven correct then Block 58 will become the key driver of Surname’s offshore oil boom. TotalEnergies and Apache are continuing operations aimed at defining the considerable potential held by Block 58 with plans to drill a further three exploration and appraisal wells in the block during 2022. After completing the Krabdagu exploration well flow test drilling was started on the Dikkop exploration well in the central portion of Block 58. If sufficient oil resources are identified a final investment decision is expected from TotalEnergies and Apache by the end of 2022.
Exploration activities aren’t only occurring in Block 58, Apache announced in mid-June 2022 the completion of drilling activities in offshore Suriname Block 53. Apache with a 45% working interest is the operator of the block while Malaysia’s national oil company Petronas controls 30% and the remaining 25% is held by Spanish energy company Cepsa. While no statement has been made as to whether crude oil was discovered with the Rasper well drilled in the northwestern segment of Block 53 appraisal activities are continuing. Apache also stated that there are plans to drill the wildcat Baja well in the southwestern corner of Block 53 at a location approximately seven miles northeast of the Krabdagu discovery Block 58. In December 2020, Petronas, which is the operator, disclosed that along with 50% partner Exxon the discovery of oil in offshore Suriname Block 52 with the Sloanea-1 exploration well drilled to a depth of 15,682 feet.
The latest developments demonstrated that Suriname’s nascent oil boom is gaining momentum. This will deliver a significant fiscal and economic windfall for Paramaribo which is still struggling to rebuild Suriname’s economy after it was significantly impacted by the pandemic. While according to IMF data every economy in South America, except Venezuela, grew during 2021 Suriname’s shrank by a worrying 3.5%. Even in 2022, when many regional economies are expected to post robust growth, Suriname’s GDP is forecast to expand by a paltry 1.8%. Those numbers underscore the urgency with which Paramaribo needs to attract foreign energy investment and accelerate Surname’s burgeoning offshore oil boom.
By Matthew Smith for Oilprice.com
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