GEORGETOWN: US energy giant ExxonMobil on Friday announced a new offshore oil and gas discovery in waters off Guyana that are also claimed by neighboring Venezuela.

The oil and gas strike, the first of 2024, was in the Stabroek block, the company said.

The so-called Bluefin well is in the southeast portion of the block and at a depth of 4,244 feet (1,294 meters).

Some 30 discoveries made in Stabroek since 2015 have turned Guyana into an energy powerhouse with proven reserves of 11 billion barrels.

Drillers “encountered approximately 197 feet (60 meters) of hydrocarbon-bearing sandstone,“ Exxon said Friday.

“Our exploration program continues to improve our understanding of the block’s potential to drive viable oil-and-gas development,“ Alistair Routledge, president of ExxonMobil Guyana, said in the release.

Guyana's rise as an oil and gas producer has intensified a century-old territorial dispute with Venezuela over a region known as Essequibo.

Tensions escalated in late 2023 to a point that triggered alarms of a possible armed conflict. Both governments eventually pledged not to use force.

Venezuela claims Essequibo -- which makes up two-thirds of present-day Guyana -- has historically been considered part of its territory since 1777, when it was part of the Spanish empire.

Guyana, on the other hand, says the dispute should be resolved by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is currently handling the case on Essequibo based on a treaty signed in 1899, by which the current borders were fixed. -AFP

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