Canadian oil and gas exploration company CGX Energy Inc. on Friday evening held a naming and blessing ceremony for its next offshore oil exploration well, “Utakwaaka,” which is to be drilled by November next year in the Corentyne Block.
The ceremony, which coincided with an observation of CGX’s 20th anniversary, was conducted by members of the Akawaio Hallelujah Religious Group at the Umana Yana in Georgetown, in the presence of company and government officials, Canadian High Commissioner Lilian Chatterjee, and other attendees.
“Utakwaaka” is a Patamuna name which means first signs of light, dawn of a new day or a ray of hope.
Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Sydney Allicock, who delivered the feature address at the ceremony, said the request to have an indigenous name and the blessing of the new well were welcomed as he noted the relationship between the indigenous people of Guyana and the natural environment and its resources.
Allicock also added that while preparation for both the direct and indirect benefits of the oil sector is a must, management must be done in a sustainable manner that would not cause harm to the environment.
“It is coming and we must be ready to manage it and use it in a sustainable way. But while we prepare for the oil and all the benefits to come, we, too, must recognise and be cognizant of protecting a healthy ecosystem. No one knows the importance of this more than the Indigenous People of Guyana, who were from time immemorial living in harmony with the natural environment and in so doing have ensured the integrity of the ecosystems which are vital to the sustenance of all forms of life,” he said.
Allicock also asserted that newfound wealth should not take away from the alternative industries and especially those which have been vital to survival, such as farming, and are ecofriendly, such as renewable energy.
“I wish to remind us that we need to be innovative with the oil and grasp opportunities as they become available which will not only lead to self-development but the development of our villages, towns, regions and ultimately our beautiful Guyana. Let us not get complacent, get greedy but [be] constructive, let us become positive and see how we could be able to use the benefits that will come to all Guyanese in making our lives a better one and be able to live in harmony with each other,” he added.
Enhance their relevance
Executive Chairman of CGX Energy Inc. Professor Suresh Narine, who also spoke at the ceremony, explained that while oil wells are usually named after the geologists that develop them, the company decided to depart from this “time honoured convention” in favour of a name chosen by the Indigenous People.
“Tonight, with the full support of our team of geologists, CGX Energy… departs from that convention to pay homage to and take strength, sustenance and blessings from the wellsprings of spirituality, culture and philosophy of our indigenous peoples,” Narine said.
He added that the company was also happy to celebrate its 20th anniversary. “Many of you would know that in this business companies like CGX find it very difficult to survive sometimes with the leaders in the industry, so we feel fortunate that we can guide Guyana through the next exploration; we feel fortunate that we can provide an alternative way of approaching oil wealth. We feel fortunate that we are still alive and can celebrate 20 years and look forward to our next well, which must be drilled by November, 2019,” the Executive shared.
CGX, under a renegotiated work plan with the Guyana Government, has undertaken to drill the exploration well by November 27th, 2019, acquire additional seismic or conduct seismic reprocessing by November 27th, 2020 and drill another exploration well by November 27th, 2022.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Chatterjee, who also spoke at the event, described CGX as one of the pioneers in Guyana’s oil and gas sector, having been here since the mid-1990s. She noted that the company would have persevered against the odds and market risks in pursuing the exploration for oil in the Guyana–Suriname Basin.
“As a leading exploration company in Guyana, CGX is distinguished by attracting and engaging communities and building partnerships to improve and sustain the economic wellbeing of the people in those communities,” Chatterjee said, while reaffirming her government’s commitment to good corporate practices.
She noted too that the Canadian High Commission is working with all Canadian companies active in Guyana to enhance that potential for success.
“Guyana’s support for Canadian companies have been very positive, which is largely due to the model of leveraging Guyanese partnerships by building partner capabilities and address together the opportunities in the nations sector. We do not have a winner-takes-all approach, we believe in win-win solutions, recognising that when Guyana succeeds, we all succeed. As Guyana readies itself for the next phase of explosive economic development, local businesses must continue to enhance their relevance to support the new industries that will emerge and to meet the demand of the future community,” the High Commissioner said.
“The Canadian government is eager to partner with the government and private sector to help build their capabilities. While Canadian businesses are actively trying to explore opportunities to partner with local counterparts, our government to government relationship will be moving forward on a parallel tract. We will continue to promote investment, bi-lateral trade and support the development of the infrastructure that is necessary to bust the development of Guyana’s extractive sector,” she added.
‘Give us the wisdom’
The naming and blessing of the well were done by the Akawaio Hallelujah Religious Group from Phillipai and Amakokopai in the Upper Mazaruni, Region Seven. The Hallelujah religion as explained by the Minister, is Guyana’s oldest Indigenous religion.
In explaining the process undertaken by the indigenous group, member Ovid Williams said after intense deliberation, the group came up with at least 15 potential names for the well but after further deliberations decided on the Patamuna name “Utakwaaka.”
The Akawaio group also took the opportunity to call on CGX to highlight the impacts of mismanaged natural resources, particularly on their homes in the interior, where they their rivers are now polluted, and it urged oil be used wisely.
“Our resources are the foundation of the earth. Bless this well that it will be fruitful give us the wisdom that we extract and use the resources without destroying our environment,” Williams said as he translated the prayer offered by the group.
Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge, who brought greetings on behalf of the government, said all citizens must be aware that it their responsibility to transfer the resources to their descents in a manner that is appropriate.
“In bringing greetings on behalf of the government, I have certainly heard the concerns that have been raised, the aspirations that have been mentioned and I will say two things. Yes, we have heard and two, I want you to know that it is not only sufficient to participate in this phase of the undertaking to name the well but [it] also for you to continue to help the rest of the community to monitor the behaviour and activities of those who we entrust these resources to—CGX as well as the government. That is your responsibility: to monitor us to ensure that in our management of the resources we carry out our work and activities in a manner consistent with your own expectations and promises that have been made,” Greenidge said.