Dec. 27 (UPI) -- ExxonMobil said its operations in Guyana have not been affected by the Venezuelan navy's interception of two exploration ships last weekend because it occurred far away from its closest drilling and development area.
"The area where the incident occurred is more than 110 kilometers (68 miles) from the Ranger discovery, the closest of 10 oil discoveries made by ExxonMobil in the southeast section of the Stabroek Block," ExxonMobil said Wednesday.
"Two vessels operated by Petroleum Geo-Services ceased conducting 3D seismic data acquisition in the northwest portion of the Stabroek Block offshore Guyana when approached by the Venezuela navy," the company said.
The Venezuelan government issued a statement earlier this week saying the two intercepted ships could not have been in Guyana -- they were in the projection of the Orinoco River's delta.
Guyana has separately said it was one ship, and it was not in Venezuelan waters, but in Guyana's exclusive economic zone.
"Exploration and development drilling is continuing in the southeast area of the Stabroek Block," ExxonMobil added.
"Activities related to the Liza Phase 1 development, which is expected to begin producing up to 120,000 barrels of oil per day in early 2020, are also unaffected," the company also said.
ExxonMobil estimates there is potential for at least five floating, production storage and offloading vessels on the Stabroek Block producing more than 750,000 barrels of oil per day by 2025.
ExxonMobil plans to start production in the "Liza Phase 2" by mid-2022 and will use a second floating platform designed to produce up to 220,000 barrels per day. A "project sanction is expected in the first quarter of 2019," it said.
"Sanctioning of a third development, Payara, is also expected in 2019" with startup as early as 2023.
The offshore Stabroek Block, which ExxonMobil operates under a Guyana license, is 6.6 million acres.
ExxonMobil affiliate Esso Exploration and Production Guyana is operator and holds 45 percent in the Stabroek Block. Hess Guyana Exploration Ltd. holds 30 percent and China's CNOOC Nexen Petroleum Guyana Ltd. holds 25 percent.
In October 2013, Venezuela detained an exploration ship that was working for another U.S. company, Anadarko, after it found the vessel in what it considered its territorial waters, also near the maritime border with Guyana.
Venezuela and Guyana have carried out diplomatic efforts around a dispute of maritime waters for several decades.