GEORGETOWN, March 2 (Reuters) - The South American nation of Guyana could send future oil production to Trinidad and Tobago or Suriname for refining, a government official said on Thursday.
Exxon Mobil Corp and partner companies say they have found between 800 million and 1.4 billion barrels of oil off the coast of Guyana, with production expected for 2020.
"We recently had some overtures made by the government of Trinidad and Tobago ... they are operating right now below optimum and they are importing oil from Nigeria," Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman told reporters.
"Suriname has also indicated a willingness to do refining for Guyana. Why? Because they too have a refinery which is performing under par."
Guyana, which currently does not produce oil, is considering whether it would make economic sense to build its own refinery, Trotman said.
The crude discovery triggered a diplomatic dispute with neighboring Venezuela, which lays claim to a portion of Guyana as part of a long-standing border dispute. Guyana says the countries' border was settled over a century ago.
Venezuela has in the past supplied crude to Petrotrin's 168,000-barrel-per-day Pointe-a-Pierre refinery in Trinidad, but is no longer doing so amid ongoing oilfield production problems. (Reporting by Neil Marks; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Sandra Maler)