(NEWYORKTIMES) Guyana, the tiny English-speaking South American country, is poised to become the next big oil producer in the Western Hemisphere, attracting the attention and investment dollars of some of the biggest oil companies in the world.
This week, Exxon Mobil and Hess announced the successful drilling of a deepwater exploration well that may soon confirm that the seafloor beneath Guyana’s coastal waters contains one of the richest oil and natural gas discoveries in decades. Experts now estimate that one of its offshore fields alone, known as Liza, could contain 1.4 billion barrels of oil mixed with natural gas, comparable to some of the larger fields drilled in South America.
The company announcements came only days after the Guyanese government announced its intention to build a $500 million petroleum processing and service center on Crab Island, an enormous investment for one of the poorest countries in the region.
Early rough estimates by experts of how much recoverable oil Guyana could have range to more than four billion barrels, which at today’s prices would be worth more than $200 billion. But the country, which currently produces precious little energy, sorely needs pipelines and other support infrastructure to begin a major production and export effort.