Ashlika Persaud: A one-of-a-kind find in Guyana

It’s not often a geoscientist like me begins her career with a major discovery. It is even rarer to have that discovery take place in her country’s backyard.

Perspective May 22, 2019


But my story is one of a kind. 

I grew up in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, and started college in the U.S. in 2013. After graduation, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to join the geoscience team at ExxonMobil. Soon after, I found myself working as the lead geoscientist evaluating a new oil prospect close to other recent discoveries offshore Guyana. I even had the honor of naming that prospect “Tilapia,” a fish well known to local Guyanese.

I didn’t expect my career to take me back home so quickly, especially during such an exciting time filled with numerous world-class oil discoveries. But in 2016, I was suddenly part of a major exploration team that had discovered more than a billion barrels offshore Guyana.

When the time arrived to drill the Tilapia-1 well, the experience was intense, to say the least. Throughout the drilling operations, we had some long days and even longer nights. Our data told us that there was a high probability of finding oil, but there were no guarantees. All eyes in Houston, including mine, were monitoring operations around the clock, and the team’s diligent analysis was worth it in the end. When we hit the reservoir after weeks of drilling – a moment commonly referred to as “striking oil” – I was struck by the significance of it all.

After months of hard work, anticipation and stress, I was witnessing firsthand the impact that these discoveries would have on my country. I could not be more proud to have contributed.

I anxiously awaited the moment the news was public so I could call my parents, but before I even realized the announcement was out, my parents were already calling to congratulate me on the first discovery of my career.

Finding the energy that has the potential to transform the country of my family and friends is one of the reasons why I’m so passionate about what I do. I couldn’t do my job without a deep interest in science; but at the end of the day, I was emotionally invested in this well and in the promise it holds.

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