Oil summit was well organised

Dear Editor,

I write to compliment the Ministry of Natural Resources and Guyana Inter-national Petroleum Business (GIPEX) for hosting the oil summit (Feb 7-9) as reported in your media under the caption ‘Oil summit opens’ (SN, Feb 7). Such a conference allows energy professionals and companies to meet and exchange ideas and opinions to advance scientific and technical knowledge for offshore petroleum drilling and extraction. And given that we have no skill or experience in the oil industry, such a conference is needed to internationalize the huge oil find in our country and to lure investors to help transform our economy that will lift the standard of living of the nation. The conference will also help to sensitize and guide Guyanese towards the enormous business and job opportunities that will become available two years hence when oil will be commercially extracted off the coast. Instead of only looking negatively at the oil industry and the contract between Exxon and the government, one must also look at the positives – job and business opportunities. The media should not only highlight the negatives but give some focus on the positives as well.

This conference was being held at a most opportune time for our country in terms of economic transformation and employment and business opportunities. As your report pointed out, it allowed for networking opportunities for both local and international businesses with some of the global players in the oil and gas sector. Don’t underestimate job opportunities.

I was fortunate to attend oil and gas conferences as a media reporter annually in Trinidad (Hyatt) over the last several years, including one late last month and the one last year where the eminent Mr Nigel Hughes gave an impressive presentation that was the talk of the conference among the hundreds of delegates. As was the case last year, Guyana was much talked about at the conference last month by virtually every delegate, presenter, and exhibitor at the petroleum expo. Everyone seemed to have their eyes focused on Guyana. Based on my interactions with those displaying their products and services at the Trinidad conferences, non-Guyanese companies (in oil, gas, food, shipping, helicopters, etc) and petroleum engineers are attracted to Guyana because of the huge oil discovery.  The foreigners gazed their eyes on jobs and businesses in all areas to service the oil industry. Guyanese should re-orient themselves to take advantage of the coming opportunities not only in resource extraction but also in environmental matters (potential hazards from exploration and extraction). Otherwise, the foreigners will gobble up everything and then Guyanese will cry they were denied opportunities.

The capacity attendance at the conference, in spite of the huge registration fee, is not surprising. Oil related companies around the globe recognize immense business petroleum opportunities in Guyana and want to get into the act before it is too late. Guyanese must not allow themselves to be left out.

I am not a petroleum engineer, but having read for the BS degree in Chemistry, and distilling (analyzing) hydrocarbons in the lab, I am familiar with some scientific procedures involved in extracting and refining petroleum. It is a fascinating subject. I encourage Guyanese scientists and engineers to familiarize themselves with the petroleum industry for which there will be huge job demands. It will not take that much effort to move from Chemistry to a petroleum related occupation. Others not in science or engineering should also learn petroleum technology. The country’s economy will change and there will be a demand for petroleum related skilled workers and related service staff. Everyone should try to retool to fit in with the new economy.

This conference is most welcome. There was a positive atmosphere and a welcoming spirit by the hosts. Based on feedbacks, the discussion and exchange seemed most fruitful. There was a nice mix between theory and practice of exploration, extraction and servicing the industry with the latest technology. There were industrial leaders in the field telling the world about the opportunities that are now presenting themselves for drilling, oil extraction, servicing the industry, reservoir engineering (that Exxon is now constructing in Singapore for its Guyana extraction), etc.

Overall, the conference seemed to have been well organized to attract so many participants, although there was limited Guyanese involvement. I thank the organizers. It speaks very highly of them. It is no small task to get exhibitors, experts, professionals, and service related businesses from around the world to gather at a single site. However, greater participation of Guyanese was needed and the organizers should have done more to encourage local participation, perhaps reducing the high participation fee for them.

The Oil (Natural Resources) Minister Raphael Trotman should be commended for hosting this conference. He gave a good comprehensive speech outlining the ample opportunities in the oil and gas sector echoing government’s call for investment.

By only attacking Exxon and the government over the contract, critics are doing Guyanese a disservice. By all means critique the contract and the parties to it as well as related matters but do also encourage people to be au fait with the oil industry and to learn technologies or skills that can land them high paying jobs or opportunities in business.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram