Petronas closing in on 500 million boe at Block 52 offshore Suriname

Malaysian state operator Petronas and its consortium partner ExxonMobil announced a new discovery offshore Suriname earlier this month, following the completion of the Fusaea-1 well. This marks a hat-trick of discoveries on the block following the Sloanea-1 discovery in 2020 and Roystonea-1 in 2023. Fusaea-1 was spud in February this year, about 9 kilometers east of Roystonea-1, and is estimated to have cost around $45 million, excluding well testing, at a contracted dayrate of $470,000. Petronas operates the block, which lies in the prolific yet underexplored Guyana-Suriname Basin, holding a 50:50 participating interest with US major ExxonMobil.

The discovery of hydrocarbons at Fusaea-1 is significant for Suriname's resource potential, with the country seeking to match neighboring Guyana in terms of discovered resources and replicate its systematic development plans. There are also plans for Suriname to benefit from its newly found resource potential by establishing an oil fund, which has been hugely successful in Guyana. Following the trio of discoveries, Rystad Energy estimates the recoverable resource potential of Block 52 to have surpassed 500 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe), with the potential to add incremental volumes through subsequent exploration and appraisal activities.

Fusaea-1 was the first well in the joint venture’s current two-well exploration campaign on Block 52. The well was drilled to a total depth of 5,227 meters and encountered multiple stacked oil and gas-bearing intervals within the now-established Campanian sandstone reservoir. It has, to some extent, proven the reservoir’s regional distribution across the maritime boundary, though it is more gas-bearing towards the Surinamese side. The announcement of associated gas volumes with each new discovery creates optimism for the basin’s gas potential around the Guyana-Suriname maritime boundary. Guyana is estimated to hold around 17 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of gas, according to the nation’s Ministry of Natural Resources, which is around 55% of the US Geological Survey's 2021 estimates, leaving Suriname with around 20 Tcf of unrisked gas potential. Rystad Energy estimates Suriname’s total discovered resources sit at around 2.5 billion boe of recoverable resources spread across ten discoveries – three in Petronas’s Block 52, six in TotalEnergies-operated Block 58, and one in APA Corporation’s Block 53. This has propelled the nation into the top five countries for newly discovered volumes since 2020. The inclusion of Namibia, Suriname and Guyana among these top nations highlights the significance of frontier exploration, with Guyana now being one of the most prolific producers in the world.

Petronas intends to continue analyzing and interpreting the data obtained from its wildcat exploration to evaluate the ultimate recoverable volumes and work toward the integrated development of the Fusaea-1, Roystonea-1 and Sloanea-1 discoveries. The successful exploration campaigns will also provide valuable information to decipher multiple geological play types within the fairway for hydrocarbon generation and accumulation. In March this year, Petronas, ExxonMobil and state-run Surinamese company Staatsolie signed a letter of agreement in a push for the development of gas reserves present in Block 52 and a potential joint gas development option across the maritime boundary.

The trio of discoveries proves the Malaysian operator’s perseverance after it started with an unsuccessful well within its tract, the Roselle-1 wildcat drilled in 2016. Despite the setback, it continued working towards achieving its strategy of exploring, acquiring and extracting new volumes capable of providing additional supplies to help sustain long-term production. Petronas has been among the most successful explorers in the last couple of years, discovering about 1.3 billion boe of hydrocarbons since 2020 while attaining the peak position in 2023 as the most successful explorer in terms of net discovered resources. The volumes are dominated by its domestic ventures in Malaysia, consisting of 60% of its discovered volumes between 2020 and 2023. However, this is followed by Suriname, highlighting the relevance of the new volumes in terms of its international portfolio.

Elsewhere in Suriname, Petronas holds a 50:50 operated interest in Block 48 with Staatsolie. It is also the sole owner of Block 63 and holds a 30% participating interest in TotalEnergies’ Block 64 (operator, 40%), along with QatarEnergy (30%). Additionally, it has a 30% interest within APA’s Block 53 (operator, 30%), along with Spanish multinational Cepsa (25%). Blocks 63 and 64 lie in the Demerara area and are among the most exciting exploratory blocks within an extensive basin. Studies have been carried out to understand the subsurface opportunities in the region. Among the six blocks in the area (blocks 63 to 68), over 60 prospects and leads have been identified with a resource potential of about 40 billion barrels of oil, with numerous exploratory options across the blocks offering additional upside potential. As far as prioritization of exploratory location is concerned, APA and Petronas have exercised their relinquishment option and returned part of Block 53 to Staatsolie on 31 December 2023. While this has limited the joint venture’s area around the Baja-1 oil discovery, it has spared it from drilling at least one exploration well as a part of work commitment in case of an extension.

Successful exploratory campaigns in recent years have prompted Staatsolie to work towards managing the billion-dollar industry. Staatsolie’s managing director, Annand Jagesar, has stated that the state-run company “is already eyeing a crucial step to realizing this goal; the establishment of a sovereign wealth and stabilization fund (SWSF)”. The establishment of the SWSF would help uplift the country’s economy, and Staatsolie would also be willing to participate in developments, with up to a 20% stake, wherever possible.


Palzor Shenga

Vice President, Upstream Research

(The data and/or forecasts in this column are Rystad Energy’s, and the opinions are of the authors.)