The 2015 offshore Guyana discovery in the Stabroek Block by Exxon Mobil, Liza-1, encountered more than 295 ft of oil-bearing sandstones. The Stabroek Block in the Guyana-Suriname Basin has confirmed that the Liza Field extends at least halfway to the neighboring Orinduik Block to the southwest and contains hydrocarbons.

The Payara discovery in 2017 was the second discovery on the block, and it hit more than 95 ft of high-quality, oil-bearing sandstone in a new reservoir. Subsequent appraisal drilling indicates a recoverable resource of between 800 MMboe and 1.4 Bboe. The company is most recently testing in the Kaieteur Block, which has a prospective resource of 256.2 MMbbl of oil. Additional discoveries have been made at Turbot, Ranger, Pacora, Longtail, Hammerhead, Pluma, Tilapia, Yellowtail Mao and more.

Exxon Mobil has made its final investment decision to proceed with the Payara Field development offshore Guyana after receiving government approvals. Payara is expected to produce up to 220,000 bbl/d of oil after startup in 2024, using the Prosperity FPSO vessel.

According to the company, the $9 billion development will target an estimated resource base of about 600 MMboe. Ten drill centers are planned along with up to 41 wells, including 20 production and 21 injection wells.

“Exxon Mobil is committed to building on the capabilities from our Liza Phase 1 and 2 offshore oil developments as we sanction the Payara Field and responsibly develop Guyana’s natural resources,” said Liam Mallon, president of Exxon Mobil Upstream Oil & Gas Co. “We continue to prioritize high-potential prospects in close proximity to discoveries and maximize value for our partners including the people of Guyana.”

In 2020, Apache Corp. announced a significant offshore Suriname oil discovery (Maka Central-1), which is on trend with the adjacent Stabroek Block in Guyana. The Guyana-Suriname Basin discovery hit more than 123 m of net pay of high-quality, light oil and gas-rich condensate net pay in multiple stacked reservoirs in Upper Cretaceous Campanian and Santonian.

Before the offshore finds, both Guyana and Suriname were among the poorest countries in South America.

While there seems to be a number of geologically significant and interesting plays around the sea, current international oil prices are likely to inhibit exploration and development until prices become more attractive.

Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago have long been gas-rich and one of the top producers in South America (before Brazil), but recent exploration by two companies has discovered significant amounts of oil. Columbus Energy Resources found oil in onshore Trinidad’s southwest peninsula—an exploratory well encountered 2,363 ft of gross sands with six reservoir intervals of interest in Lower and Middle Cruse.

Touchstone Exploration announced a crude oil discovery in the onshore Ortoire Block. Cased-hole wireline logs indicated a net 80 ft of oil pay in the Lower Cruse Sands and approximately 180 net ft of oil pay in Herrera.

Final production test results from the Cascadura-1ST1 well in Trinidad’s Ortoire exploration block were reported in 2020. The upper zone (Cruse and Herrera) had an absolute open flow rate of 390 MMcf/d of gas and averaged 5,472 boe/d (86% gas). The lower test (Herrera) flowed 92 MMcf/d of gas with an average of 5,157 boe/d (87% gas). Both tests were limited by the capacity of surface test equipment.

In 2017 bp announced two major offshore gas discoveries at Savannah and Macadamia. According to the company, the Columbus Basin finds hold approximately 2 Tcf of gas.


A 2017 assessment by Melbana Energy of onshore Cuba’s Block 9 estimated that the oil and gas exploration potential of the 2,380-sq km area holds approximately 12 Bbbl of in-place oil. The block is on trend with the multibillion-barrel Varadero oil field, which has a prospective, recoverable resource of 612 MMbbl and about 50% more than the previous assessment. The assessment was on the Lower Sheet Play, which is a conventional, fractured carbonate reservoir, similar to existing producing fields in Cuba, and is located at depths typically 2,000 m to 3,500 m.

In 2020 Melbana is building a drill pad for a two-well drilling program in Block 9. The first planned well is targeting resources with an assessed prospective resource of 141 MMbbl oil. The second proposed well has objective in in the Motembo oil field—Cuba’s oldest oil field—that reportedly contains 50°API to  64.5°API oil. There are no previous wells that have drilled deep enough to test the underlying Zapato structure.


One of the region’s earliest and largest oil producers, Venezuela, may soon be producing zero barrels of oil.

According to an IHS Markit analysis, one of the founding members of OPEC reported that the country’s crude output is about 100,000 to 200,000 bbl/d and falling. In 2017, the country produced about 2 MMbbl/d and third-quarter 2019 production was approximately 650,000 bbl/d.

According to an IHS Markit analyst, Venezuela's production fall is the product of decades of decline and decay. It has been exacerbated by the COVID-19-induced oil price collapse of 2020, U.S. sanctions and limited domestic oil storage. Venezuela’s demise as an oil producer will have little to no impact, according to the analyst, on global oil markets given the much larger shifts in world oil supply and repercussions of COVID-19.

With the size of the country’s reserves, a restoration of production in the future is possible with a rebuilding of infrastructure under appropriate investment and security conditions and could return the country to the ranks of major oil producers.


A 2019 report created for Tullow Oil from updated 3D seismic data indicates the offshore Jamaica Walton-Morant license has a gross, unrisked mean oil prospective resource of 229 MMboe, an increase of about 10 MMbbl. The survey covered 2,250 sq km of recent 3D seismic data at the Colibri prospect to de-risk highly prospective Cretaceous- and Tertiary-aged clastic and carbonate reservoir targets, including Colibri, that have been mapped by Tullow on 2D seismic data.

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic has four frontier basins of interest—the onshore Cibao, Enriquillo, Azua and the offshore San Pedro de Macoris Basin. In 2019 the government announced its first licensing round with 10 onshore blocks and four offshore blocks.

Crude in the Dominican Republic has been known for decades. There have long been oil oozes from a pit in Charco Largo, Azua, in the south of the country. Three onshore Neogene clastic basins have been the focus of petroleum exploration, and oil seeps led to a well being drilled at Higuerito in 1905, which reportedly produced about 40 bbl/d of oil.


An offshore Bahamas exploration well is planned by Bahamas Petroleum Co. at Perseverance-1. The well is targeting recoverable P50 oil resources of 77 MMbbl of oil with an upside of 1.44 Bbbl of oil in the B structure and a recoverable resource potential in excess of 2 Bbbl. The well location will be on the northern segment of the structure and is near the Cuba-Bahamas maritime boundary.

The venture has a Tertiary objective, but it will evaluate multiple reservoir horizons. The company anticipates that any discovery at this location has the potential to extend into a larger portion of the overall B structure extending to the southeast.