ExxonMobil Guyana exec clarifies statement on investing money elsewhere

Guyana Newsroom has reported that last week, the new head of ExxonMobil’s operation in Guyana, Alistair Routledge, issued a statement to clarify pronouncements he made earlier this month about the company taking its money elsewhere.

Fresh from his stint in Qatar, where he was president and general manager for ExxonMobil’s operation in the Middle Eastern country, Routledge called a press conference during which he informed reporters that the energy giant could invest in other countries.

Alistair Routledge, president, ExxonMobil Guyana (Photo: Newsroom Guyana)

“The Guyana portfolio is one of the better opportunities for us in the ExxonMobil portfolio, but it’s not the only one,” he told the reporters via online conference.

“And, indeed, if we don’t get the agreement as we are looking for in Payara, the investment money will go elsewhere in ExxonMobil’s portfolio,” Newsroom Guyana quotes Routledge.

Similar to the Liza project, the Payara development is expected to produce 220,000 barrels per day from up to 45 wells. Plans for the Payara project include the instalment of a floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel, named Prosperity.

The graphic show the Stabroek Block, its distance from Guyana’s coasts and the companies with investment in the exploration and production of the area. (Photo: Newsroom Guyana)

The new head of ExxonMobil Guyana has, however, come under criticism for his comments, with some arguing that the petroleum exploration and producing company is seeking to bully the new Guyana Government into cowering to an initial contract it had agreed upon with the APNU+AFC Administration.

One of the criticisms has come from notable chartered accountant, attorney, and anti-corruption advocate Christopher Ram. “It is disrespectful for a company to treat a sovereign country like this. I don’t think that kind of approach is going to succeed with Guyana. Also, I really don’t think it is in Exxon’s interest, and its partners, to behave as arrogant as the President of ExxonMobil did.” he said.

“…if we don’t get the agreement as we are looking for in Payara, the investment money will go elsewhere in ExxonMobil’s portfolio…”

— President of ExxonMobil Guyana Alistair Routledge

To this end, Routledge sought to clarify his position. “We are fully committed to Guyana; have been here for decades despite numerous risks and when other companies left.”

He said that ExxonMobil will continue to work closely with the Government to develop the country’s resources for the long-term benefit of Guyanese and to be transparent in doing so.

While underscoring that the timely approval of additional proposed projects, including Payara, will ensure that the local workforce and utilization of local suppliers will continue to grow, Routh also pointed out that the decision to invest in the South American country does not rest solely with him. Instead, he said, the US-based company’s corporate investment committee makes the final investment decision.

The Liza Destiny Floating Production Storage and Offloading offshore Guyana (Photo: dpi.gov.gy)

“…but if it is not apparent that there is a willingness to move forward locally then they will look at other opportunities to invest the money elsewhere,” Routledge outlined.

On August 16, the Ministry of Natural Resources announced that it would undertake a review of the Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited’s (EEPGL) Payara contract with the assistance of Canadian experts. The review, the ministry said, served to ensure “the interest of all Guyanese is protected” and that “international transparency and accountability standards” are  maintained. 

While ExxonMobil waits to hear from the Guyana Government about the conclusion of the review, the energy company expressed that it would prefer that the contract for the development of the Stabroek Block, which includes Payara, remain the same.

“If we enter into contracts in a country and those are changed down the road, then it’s very difficult for us to make commitment on projects that typically have 20-30 year investment life. So how can we make those investments if we are unsure whether the terms are changed?” Routledge asked.

“So, I do think it is important that everybody understand that sanctity of contract is important to the long-term investment of not just ExxonMobil but any other investor considering coming into the country,” he emphasised.