An artist’s impression of the ExxonMobil head office that is to be built at Ogle
September 20 ,2020
With Guyana being described as the “sunshine of oil countries” by one investor, a number of oil and gas projects are forging ahead here despite the contraction of the global economy due to the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, and Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat sees this as indicative of confidence in this country, its governance and economy.
“[Wednesday’s] notice shows the confidence of investors in this country. We can only get better and grow bolder. Our government is for investment. We encourage investors and are trying to create a climate where investors are encouraged to come here and join with us as we develop this nation,” the minister told this newspaper.
“There will be a number of spin-offs from these investments because with foreign investment comes foreign currency, more revenue from taxes, employment is created, other goods and services are utilized… the benefits are immense,” he observed.
The notice Bharrat referred to was one advertised by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in which the construction of a Baker Hughes oilfield supercenter at Land of Canaan on the East Bank of Demerara and another shore base at Versailles on the West Bank of Demerara, were among six projects for which applications for authorisation for works were made to the agency.
Among them were also ExxonMobil’s request for the continuation of its Guyana Office Complex at Ogle and businessman Stanley Ming’s’ ISIKA Shore Base at Parika, on the East Bank of Essequibo (EBE).
Baker Hughes’ Country Leader Darryl Eisler told this newspaper that while COVID-19 will impact on the project’s operations, his company was eager to get the required permits and begin construction.
With the EPA’s processing scheduled to be completed by the end of October, given that the projects were already screened and do not need Environmental Impact Assessments, Eisler said that the project will take off as soon as it is given the requisite permissions.
Eisler said that the company “is looking to establish a footprint” here and in Suriname and the establishment of the supercenter here will aid that process as it supports the oil & gas industry in both countries.
This newspaper understands that the company hopes that CARICOM’s integrated support systems will assist the process in the company working in both countries. “If we can get some tax treaties through CARICOM we are able to service both here and Suriname,” an official explained.
Because the company will have to tender for contracts, it expects employment at the beginning to be about 15 to 23 persons and will build on the numbers as it wins awards from ExxonMobil and other companies.
Last year November, Baker Hughes partnered with John Fernandes to provide onshore support services here.
The waterfront facility, named GPort, according to the company’s website, held its sod turning for the project last year October and saw Philip Fernandes, CEO of John Fernandes Ltd and Chief Operational Officer of BHC, Uwem Ukpong, undertaking the ceremonial breaking of the ground.
Giving an insight into its global portfolio, the company which has headquarters both in the United States and United Kingdom describes itself thusly, “Baker Hughes is an energy technology company that provides solutions for energy and industrial customers worldwide. Built on a century of experience and with operations in over 120 countries, our innovative technologies and services are taking energy forward – making it safer, cleaner and more efficient for people and the planet.”
Specifically pertaining to the oil & gas sector, the company provides a wide range of products and services for oilfield services and equipment covering all areas of oil & gas exploration and production.
And Tristar Incorporated (Versailles Shorebase), which lists Devaindra Chaitram as the person applying for the permit, states that it wants authorisation for the construction of a wharf at Versailles/Malgre Tout.
ISIKA, a joint venture with the United Kingdom-based InterOil Group Ltd that Ming said would develop a US$200 million oil and gas shore base where locals will be able to rent space to provide services for the sector, is also looking to get its EPA go ahead.
Ming told this newspaper that he has had to go through “a number of processes for a long time now”.
Like Baker Hughes, he said that as soon as permission is granted the investors plan to begin work but knows that it will be “slowed down somewhat because of COVID.” “COVID will affect us and we know that. Some of the engineers and project designers are overseas and will be affected,” he said.
Ming, who had originally envisioned the creation of a community on 1,100 acres of land he owns there, told Stabroek News that it was only a “slight” change from the original housing plans he had for the area.
He had also planned to establish the headquarters of his company, Ming’s Products and Services Ltd, there. He said, too, that 325 acres will be used for the shore base.
He still believes that the project will thrive as Guyana’s oil and gas sector and overall standard of living will continue to grow. He said that it is his confidence in the project that sees him anxious to start development. His investors are also waiting and he had said that they had a good track record and works could be mirrored here.
“I did my research on the company, too, and I see they have been doing this in parts of Africa where they are focused on local content. They have set up similar shore base service providers and in one country had over 20,000 persons employed. So the plan is not for it to only be a shore base for the company because when it starts operating, Guyanese families will be living nearby and they can also use the shore base for their own businesses,” he had explained.
Guyana’s Natural Resources minister said that all the projects will create much needed jobs and he hopes that it will reduce the unemployment percentage, even as he urged the private sector to continue to look at investments for this country and assured of his government’s backing.
“We can’t create jobs for everyone [so] we need the private sector. We are investor-friendly but we will not do it in direct competition with our local companies. We have to and will put safeguards for our locals to have maximum benefits of all sectors here. It is their resource and they must benefit tangibly,” he said.
To foreign investors, he said that they too understand government’s local content policies and overall guidelines and environmental practices and safety regulations.
“The Minister of Labour has already made it clear as to how he will deal with foreign companies’ dealings with our locals. We will protect our people and see they are not taken advantage of,” Bharrat assured.
“I cannot stress enough and echo my President’s views that we will endeavour to ensure that locals get their due, that not just in my sector but all sectors and for all peoples,” he declared.