The French business TotalEnergies on Wednesday launched a $9 billion project anticipated to bolster the economy of the poor country and ease austerity restrictions imposed by the International Monetary Fund. This will be the first time in Suriname’s history that offshore oil drilling would take place in its waters.
First production is anticipated to begin in late 2028, according to CEO Patrick Pouyanné, who said that past exploration indicated the two locations where the company plans to drill may produce almost 700 million barrels. The oil block’s operator, TotalEnergies, is a joint venture partner with energy firm APA Corp. of Texas.
The announcement was celebrated by Suriname President Chan Santokhi, who pledged that the people of the South American country would benefit from the investment.
“Suriname is going through a challenging economic period,” he said. “This announcement provides the much-needed outlook toward positive developments for our nation.”
About 70 per cent of the country’s roughly 640,000 inhabitants live below the poverty line and are struggling with an inflation rate that has risen 60 per cent in the past year.
In February, protesters stormed Suriname’s Parliament to decry the end of government subsidies that sparked a rise in the cost of power, fuel and water. Demonstrators in March once again took to the streets and demanded that Santokhi resign.
Annand Jagesar, CEO of the state-owned Staatsolie oil company that produces some 17,000 barrels a day from on-shore drilling, praised the upcoming deep-water project.
“This development, aided by good governance, should lift Suriname to a stage where poverty is totally eradicated,” he said.
Pouyanné said the company expects to extract some 200,000 barrels of oil a day.
“TotalEnergies is committed to the authorities of Suriname to develop this project in a responsible manner, both by ensuring benefits in terms of job creation and economic activities for Suriname and by using the best available technologies to minimize greenhouse gas emissions,” he said at a press conference.
The waters off Suriname and neighbouring Guyana are believed to be rich in gas and oil deposits.
Guyana, which has become one of world’s biggest offshore oil producers, opened bids for additional oil blocks late Tuesday.