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Exxon’s high risk oil gamble off Guyana’s coast

Experts warn of potential for environmental disaster as Exxon pursues 9 billion-barrel oil find

The Bob Douglas drill ship operated by Noble Energy for ExxonMobil floats 120 miles offshore of Guyana in 2018. It was drilling what became the first production oil well in Guyana’s history. Christopher Gregory / The Guardian

Read our latest investigation

By Antonia Juhasz for Floodlight and the Guardian

ExxonMobil’s huge new Guyana project faces charges of a disregard for safety from experts who claim the company has failed to adequately prepare for possible disaster, the Guardian and Floodlight have found.
Exxon has been extracting oil from Liza 1, an ultra-deepwater drilling operation, since 2019 – part of an expansive project spanning more than 6 million acres off the coast of Guyana that includes 17 additional prospects in the exploration and preparatory phases.
By 2025, the company expects to produce 800,000 barrels of oil a day, surpassing estimates for its entire oil and natural gas production in the southwestern US Permian basin by 100,000 barrels that year. Guyana would then represent Exxon’s largest single source of fossil fuel production anywhere in the world.
But experts claim that Exxon in Guyana appears to be taking advantage of an unprepared government in one of the lowest-income nations in South America, allowing the company to skirt necessary oversight. Worse, they also believe the company’s safety plans are inadequate and dangerous.
A top engineer who studies oil industry disasters, as well as a former government regulator, have leveled criticisms at Exxon. They say workers’ lives, public health, and Guyana’s oceans and fisheries—which locals rely on heavily—are all at stake.

In addition to flagging serious safety concerns from experts, Juhasz's investigation demonstrates how oil companies are significantly expanding their operations despite pledging to help fight the climate crisis. Exxon is reportedly considering a net-zero carbon goal for 2050. But that goal would only cover Exxon's direct emissions, and not those of the end users of its oil and gas, as Quartz explained. Exxon's expansion in Guyana comes as top scientists warn the world is running out of time to stall the worst of the climate crisis.

Juhasz is available for media interviews on this story. Please contact


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