Suriname may be one of the smallest countries in Latin America, with a population of fewer than 600,000 people, but off its coast lie potentially significant oil and gas deposits that could alter the country’s future.

Two large discoveries in recent months by U.S. oil exploration and production company Apache Corp. and French oil major Total SA have offered hopes for an offshore bonanza for the former Dutch colony. The country is looking to mirror its neighbour Guyana, where Exxon Mobil Corp. recently started production from deepwater oil blocks.

Suriname currently produces just 16,000 bbl/d from onshore fields. But the U.S. government estimates that the Guyana-Suriname basin may contain nearly 14 billion barrels of oil—in line with the resources of Argentina—and more than 32 Tcf of natural gas.

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