The Guyana-Suriname basin may host as many as 10 rigs next year, as exploration and appraisal activities in the prolific province speed up with numerous wells to be drilled in 2021 and beyond.

US supermajor ExxonMobil is spearheading operations in Guyana with six drillships actively working in the area, while French player TotalEnergies has two Maersk-owned rigs performing duties in neighbouring Suriname.

There are more than 15 international oil companies with acreage in the region looking for hydrocarbons, according to Tim Chisholm, Hess vice president for exploration, appraisal and developments at Guyana-Suriname.

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“There are multiple wildcats already in progress and we expect to have 10 rigs operating in Guyana and Suriname next year,” Chisholm told a panel at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.

ExxonMobil has four Noble drillships — Noble Sam Croft, Noble Bob Douglas, Noble Don Taylor and Noble Tom Madden — as well as the Stena Drilling drillships Stena Carron and Stena DrillMax operating in Guyana.

The company has been drilling wells mainly at the Stabroek block, with recent and ongoing probes including Pinktail-1, Cataback-1, Tripletail-2, Turbot-2 and Mako-2.

One high-profile prospect is eyed for the fourth quarter when ExxonMobil will drill its first dedicated well to test the deep potential of the Fangtooth-1 wildcat, located 14 kilometres north-west of the giant Liza field.

Hess partners with ExxonMobil in Stabroek with a 30% working interest. The company also holds a 20% stake in the Kaieteur block, where the Tanager-1 well was drilled late last year but failed to result in a commercial discovery.

As for TotalEnergies, the company has chartered two Maersk units — the semi-submersible rig Maersk Developer and the drillship Maersk Valiant — for exploration and appraisal work at Block 58 offshore Suriname.

Since January 2020, TotalEnergies and partner US independent Apache have made five big finds in Block 58, with the duo already planning to install a mid-sized floating production, storage and offloading vessel in the permit later this decade.

“We have unlocked more than 9 billion barrels of oil equivalent in Guyana, and it appears TotalEnergies has discovered another 2 billion boe in Suriname,” Chisholm said.

A ninth rig arrived in the basin a few days ago. The Maersk semisub Maersk Discoverer is on the verge of starting drilling the Kawa-1 prospect for Canadian independent CGX Energy at the shallow-water Corentyne block in Guyana.

Other operators including Malaysia’s Petronas, as well as European players Equinor, Shell, Tullow Oil and Repsol, are also assessing next steps in the region with potential drilling to take place in the years to come.