The Inaugural Guyana International Energy Conference held at the Marriott, February 15-18, 2022 was an overwhelming success. This is based on the wealth of information, analysis and policy pronouncements on several topics including the energy transition; the health, safety and environmental culture, opportunities for members of the Diaspora, plans to ensure the transition away from heavy fossil fuels; local content in principle and practice; and updates from oil operators in Guyana’s waters. The Conference organizer reported 800 registered delegates from 25 countries, and 1,500 visitors to the Exhibition Centre and widespread sponsorship from international corporations and the local business community.
Since 2015, oil companies operating off Guyana’s coast have found more than 10 billion barrels of recoverable oil and gas, accounting for a tenth of the world's conventional discoveries. A consortium with Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N), Hess Corp (HES.N) and CNOOC Ltd expect to produce 1 million barrels of oil and gas per day by the end of the 2022. In addition, more oil finds projected for the Stabroek, Corentyne, Canje, Yellow Tail, Unity and Conuku blocks will enhance outputs from Guyana's oil and gas sector further.
What resonated from the opening to the closing session was that this was not an Oil & Gas conference per se. It was an event that showcased opportunities for Guyana’s sustainable development with the oil boom being the pivot for the viability of other sectors. It was indeed reminiscent of the panel presented at the University of Guyana Green Institute conference in October 2021, that identified how Guyana could be a global model of aligning oil economy with a green economy.
Highlights from the Keynote Opening Panel
The tone was set at the opening session when the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo insisted that local content development must place emphasis on the public interest, transparency and accountability; and the oil and gas sector must enhance local content in all aspects of the industry’s development. This is illustrated in Ghana’s local content law which is not about nationalization but partnering to bring benefits to its citizens who own the resources that are being developed. Hence energy sustainability must translate into social and economic benefits for the citizens as it transitions from fossil fuel to green energy.
President Chan Santokhi of Suriname stated that in utilizing the new found wealth, it is important to take into account the impact of climate change and looming global instability on the oil and gas economy which need to be developed in an environmentally friendly manner. He advocated that sustainable development must place emphasis on functional cooperation in infrastructure, environment, marketing and energy as the framework for securing the economy for future generations. The Guyana-Suriname Corridor offers a rich potential for rapid growth.
For PM Mia Motley of Barbados energy is integral to the sustainable future of CARICOM and there is need to engage in the ‘inconvenient truths’ about the perpetuation of inequities and disparities without a reparatory process. Consequently, there is need to ensure that at no stage must citizens be left as tenants in their own land. She recommended an investment of 10% of the oil and gas bonanza to finance renewable energy, education and health and pointed to Barbados’ initiatives including the establishment of green bonds and a green development bank, local ownership and entrepreneurial development. She advocated for the world to pause for the complex conversation since 'net zero does not mean zero'.
President Dr. Irfaan Ali stressed that the major aims of the exercise are situating Guyana’s energy transition in the wider development plan, building partnership and removing barriers for bringing people together and working to develop the Corentyne as a new frontier. He was emphatic that local content must include welcoming foreign investors. He highlighted that Guyana is intricately linked in CARICOM since Guyanese prosperity is intertwined with the prosperity of the Region. He presented the emergence of the oil and gas sector as a catalyst for expanded business opportunities, a giant leap to a diversified economy and an opportunity to invest in human resource development with special reference to education, health, training and the enhancement of competences for the future world of work. The President emphasized Guyana’s contribution to global solutions as exemplified by the worth of its standing forests, which has one of the best deforestation rates at less than 0.53% valued at approximately US$500B.
Platforms for Moving Forward
The keynotes from the primary speakers above provide the broad frame of reference for the take-off of the Conference which focused on the issues that by and large optimistically pointed to a bright future that is happening now. The areas that were covered by plenary sessions revolved around issues to be further explored. They include:
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.