Govt wants fast approval for Whiptail, but will not compromise on assessments – VP Jagdeo

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

With approval still pending for the Field Development Plan (FDP) for the Whiptail Project, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo said while the Government wants to have this project approved as early as possible, it will not compromise on the quality of the assessments that will have to be done.

ExxonMobil Guyana revealed that it submitted the FDP for the Whiptail Project in early October, seeking the Guyana Government’s approval for its sixth project in the Stabroek Block offshore.

During a press conference on Thursday, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo was asked whether Whiptail will be approved before the end of this year. However, Jagdeo explained that the Government is pushing to have this done at the earliest time possible but this will depend on the completion of the assessments.

“We are working on it and there is no treat on it. Let me say that there is no retreat. We want it done, we want the approval to be issued as soon as possible without compromising our technical assessment and the environmental assessment… We’re not going to push people based on a fake deadline to just complete their work before they’ve had a chance to thoroughly assess the applications,” the Vice President stated.

Only last month, Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat disclosed that British consultant firm Bayphase, which crafted the production licence for previous projects, has been retained to work on the Whiptail Field Development Plan.

Production at Whiptail is slated to be 250,000 barrels of oil per day with the first oil expected in late 2027.

SBM Offshore has been contracted to build the floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel for this project called the Jaguar.

Last month, the Dutch company announced that it was awarded the Front-End Engineering and Design (FEED) contract for the Whiptail FPSO. SBM said upon the completion of the FEED contract, it will eventually construct and install the FPSO but this second phase of work is dependent on project approval.

According to the Dutch company, the FEED contract award triggers the initial release of funds by ExxonMobil Guyana to begin FEED activities and commits a Fast4Ward® hull for the execution of the Whiptail development project in Guyana.

Under the contracts, the FPSO’s ownership is expected to be transferred to Exxon at the end of the construction period and before the start of operations offshore Guyana. The construction costs are expected to be partially funded by senior loans which will be repaid at the time of the FPSO’s transfer to the client.

SBM Offshore had said it is expected to operate the FPSO through its integrated operations and maintenance model combining SBM Offshore and ExxonMobil’s expertise and experience, leveraging key learnings and the operational excellence of the units currently deployed in Guyana.

SBM Offshore will design and construct the FPSO using its industry-leading Fast4Ward® program using the company’s seventh new build, a Multi-Purpose Floater hull, combined with several standardised topside modules. The FPSO will be designed to produce 250,000 barrels of oil per day and will have an associated gas treatment capacity of 540 million cubic feet per day and a water injection capacity of 300,000 barrels per day. The FPSO will be spread-moored in a water depth of about 1630 metres and will be able to store around 2 million barrels of crude oil.

At a press conference in October, ExxonMobil Guyana President Alistair Routledge told Guyana Times that the Final Investment Decision (FID) for the Whiptail Project, which is likely to cost over US$12 billion, will be made early next year.

Back in August, ExxonMobil approached the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for approval of Whiptail. According to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the project will target between 33 and 72 wells. The documents further detailed that development drilling is expected to last from late 2024 or early 2025 through mid-2030, with the possibility of extending it as late as 2031.

Installation of subsea components of the project is meanwhile slated to begin in the 2025 second half or early 2026. The installation of the FPSO vessel as well as commissioning and start-up, are expected to occur in 2027. The life of the project is expected to last for at least 20 years.

According to the US oil company, the project will employ over 500 persons during drilling and installation. Additionally, between 100 and 180 persons will be employed during production.

The Jaguar FPSO for the Whiptail Project is the fifth vessel that will be built by SBM Offshore, which has already delivered three FPSOs for Guyana – Liza Destiny for the Liza Phase One Project, Liza Unity for the Liza Phase Two Project and Prosperity for the Payara Project – and is currently working on a fourth – the One Guyana FPSO for the Yellowtail Project, Exxon’s fourth development offshore.

Only last month, Exxon paid off $1.26 billion to SBM in order to acquire ownership of the Liza Unity FPSO that is currently producing oil offshore.

The Whiptail is the last project on Exxon’s list of six to come online by 2027 in the oil-rich Stabroek Block, where production activities commenced in December 2019.