Grenada gov’t complains about missing petro documents

Grenada PM Dickon Mitchell addresses town hall at Brooklyn College on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.
Photo by Nelson A. King/File

American supermajor Exxon is working on getting Guyana’s sixth major offshore oil field up and running in the coming months, while neighboring Suriname is preparing to commence actual oil production in about five years. Watching these breathtaking developments from nearby are fellow CARICOM member nations Jamaica, Barbados and Grenada but of these, Grenada, a very close neighbor to oil producers Trinidad and Venezuela, seems ready to put systems in place to attract exploration companies.

But the Eastern Caribbean nation, which said that it had found more than a hint of proven commercial oil and gas deposits back in 2018, said there was a major problem as the new 14-month-old Dickon Mitchell administration had accused the previous government of ensuring that it had no documents to work with.

All the previous seismic data studies and information about a test well drilled five years ago appear to be hidden from officials in the new administration. PM Mitchell said this was a deliberate move by the former Keith Mitchell government to stymie its economic roll.

Days before a general election back in 2018, Keith Mitchell had told jubilant supporters that the island will become a producer like neighboring Trinidad because Nutmeg 2, a well drilled by little known Russian company Global Petroleum Group, had indeed yielded up commercial quantities of oil and gas, a situation that could transform island fortunes and ease decades of dependence on tourism and agriculture. The oil was said to be found in a mere 400 feet of water with other promising prospects right nearby. PM Mitchell said authorities had absolutely nothing to work with.

“We have written transition reports from every ministry. Oil and gas was not mentioned in a single report,” the PM told reporters last week.

So frustrated is the Mitchell cabinet that it included notes on Governor General’s Dame Cecile La Grenade’s recent throne speech in which she complained that the nation is being held to ransom by those who have secreted away documents a new government needs to work with. As of today, we are yet to solve the mystery of Grenada’s offshore oil and gas reserves. Very little records can be found anywhere within the government, and our technocrats within the ministries and departments have very little information on this matter. My government was not provided with any transition report or any files on Grenada’s legal or contractual obligations or Grenada’s progress in relation to its oil and gas reserves. This situation is untenable and completely unacceptable and my government is committed to doing all within its power to unearth the mystery of Grenada’s oil and gas status,” she said.

The Guyana oil shout that started back in 2015 when Exxon and its consortium partners said they had found a humongous amount of oil and gas offshore Guyana, has spurred its neighbors into action.

Barbados, for example, is preparing to offer bids for offshore blocks in waters between Trinidad. The island already produces about 1,000 barrels of onshore or land oil daily and is also looking for investors to ramp up its inland production while Jamaica says it is encouraged by both land and offshore oil seepages off its south coast. It too is looking for investors. The Bahamas, which had shown renewed interest under the previous administration, has scrubbed plans by the state company to explore in the gulf amid pressure from environmentalists. They fear a spill could wipe out the lifeline tourism sector.

As for Grenada, Opposition Leader Keith Mitchell said authorities werenot being truthful. “This government is being characterized by telling lies about oil and gas, and that they have no documentation. They have enough documentation. Don’t forget there were other National Democratic Congress governments that came into office before this one and would have followed up on a number of activities so, it’s very strange and I am saying it’s a blatant lie.”