Suriname prepares for its first offshore oil project that is expected to ease deep poverty

PARAMARIBO, Suriname (AP) — Suriname for the first time in its history will see offshore oil drilling in its waters after French company TotalEnergies on Wednesday announced a $9 billion project expected to boost the impoverished country’s economy and ease austerity measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund.

CEO Patrick Pouyanné said previous exploration suggests the two sites where the company would drill could yield close to 700 million barrels, with first production expected by late 2028. TotalEnergies is the operator of the oil block and equal partner with Texas-based APA Corp., an energy company.

The announcement was celebrated by Suriname President Chan Santokhi, who pledged that the people of the South American country would benefit from the investment.

“Suriname is going through a challenging economic period,” he said. “This announcement provides the much-needed outlook toward positive developments for our nation.”

About 70% of the country’s roughly 640,000 inhabitants live below the poverty line and are struggling with an inflation rate that has risen 60% in the past year.

In February, protesters stormed Suriname’s Parliament to decry the end of government subsidies that sparked a rise in the cost of power, fuel and water. Demonstrators in March once again took to the streets and demanded that Santokhi resign.

Annand Jagesar, CEO of the state-owned Staatsolie oil company that produces some 17,000 barrels a day from on-shore drilling, praised the upcoming deep-water project.

“This development, aided by good governance, should lift Suriname to a stage where poverty is totally eradicated,” he said.

Pouyanné said the company expects to extract some 200,000 barrels of oil a day.

“TotalEnergies is committed to the authorities of Suriname to develop this project in a responsible manner, both by ensuring benefits in terms of job creation and economic activities for Suriname and by using the best available technologies to minimize greenhouse gas emissions,” the company said in a statement.

The waters off Suriname and neighboring Guyana are believed to be rich in gas and oil deposits.

Guyana, which has become one of world's biggest offshore oil producers, opened bids for additional oil blocks late Tuesday.