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Oil companies are focused on South America, where low production costs help keep global prices down. | Press "Enter" to skip to content

Oil companies are focused on South America, where low production costs help keep global prices down.

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Suriname, Guyana and Brazil are the new areas of focus for oil companies, attracting more new investment than the Gulf of Mexico and other more established oil fields. They are helping to keep global oil prices relatively low, undermining efforts by Russia and its allies in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, like Saudi Arabia, to manage global supply and push up prices.

The recent pickup in interest in Guyana and Suriname is somewhat surprising because their promise as oil producers has often come up empty, reports The New York Times’s Clifford Krauss. Companies drilled more than 100 unsuccessful wells there, mostly in shallow waters, from 1950 to 2014. But after rich fields were found in the deep waters off Brazil, Exxon Mobil and other companies returned to take another look. Exxon struck a gusher in Guyanese waters in 2015, opening the current flurry of exploration.

In Guyana, oil companies have found more than 10 billion barrels of probable reserves of accessible oil and gas offshore, according to IHS Markit, the energy consulting firm. Production began in 2019 and is ramping up quickly. Guyana already accounts for one of the top 50 oil basins worldwide, according to consultants.

Suriname has at least three billion to four billion barrels of reserves, energy experts said, or up to half the new oil and gas discovered around the world last year.

Oil companies say they can make money in Suriname with oil prices as low as $30 to $40 a barrel because of lower costs. That is roughly equivalent to the threshold in Guyana and well below today’s oil price. It is also below break-even levels in many places, including some U.S. shale fields, where costs usually add up to nearly $50 a barrel.


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