Guyana on Wednesday received bids for eight of 14 offshore oil and gas exploration blocks offered in its first auction, including from groups formed by Exxon Mobil and TotalEnergies, according to the government and documents seen by Reuters.
The South American country wants to quickly expand its energy industry and recruit a wider range of developers to counterbalance a consortium led by Exxon that controls all oil production.
The auction, which garnered global attention amid the discovery of more than 11 billion barrels of recoverable oil and gas resources by the Exxon group in recent years, had been delayed several times since 2022.
The Ministry of Natural Resources confirmed that Exxon, Hess Corp and China's CNOOC had bid as a group, while a government document also listed a separate consortium with TotalEnergies, Qatar Energy and Malaysia's Petronas.
"It's not a disappointment," Guyana's President Irfaan Ali said during an event in Washington organized by the Inter-American Dialogue on Wednesday, replying to a question.
"We went out on auction at a time when big economies in the world are basically saying to all producers 'we're not going to finance'... We went to this market with 14 blocks and we got response for eight blocks. We are very happy," he added.
Exxon spokesperson Meghan Macdonald confirmed the company had submitted a bid with CNOOC and Hess.
Other bidders included a consortium formed by Delcorp, Watad Energy and Arabian Drillers; another with Liberty Petroleum and Cybele Energy; and a group composed of International Group Investment and Montego Energy, the document showed. Guyana's Sispro submitted an offer by itself.
The government will evaluate the offers in the coming weeks before negotiating terms and awarding the contracts by Nov. 1.
The list of bidders included mostly familiar and established players in the Guyana-Suriname basin along with some small, new entrants, said Welligence Energy Analytics Vice President Andres Armijos.
"The government's strategic objective to lessen the influence by the major players already active in the country looks unlikely to be achieved," he said.
Guyana is currently producing and exporting about 380,000 barrels per day (bpd) or equivalent of crude and gas, making it Latin America's seventh-largest producer. The Exxon consortium aims at reaching 1.2 million bpd of output by 2027.
President Ali also said the country will soon present its strategy for natural gas, expected to help the small nation develop its power and industrial sectors.
"Not only are we going to be a major oil producer. Very soon we'll have a national gas strategy and that itself will bring tremendous benefit to the country," Ali said in Washington.
Separately, TotalEnergies said on Wednesday it will begin studies for developing a large oil project in neighboring Suriname's most promising offshore area, adjacent to Exxon's Guyanese Stabroek block.
(Reuters - Reporting by Kiana Wilburg in Georgetown and Marianna Parraga in Houston; Additional reporting by Sabrina Valle and Gary McWilliams in Houston, and Forrest Crellin in Paris; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by David Holmes and Marguerita Choy)