Grenada’s desperate oil search trail

Grenada Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell.
Grenada Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell.
Courtesy Government of Grenada

Grenada’s year-old government is beginning to complain bitterly about some of the huge problems the former New National Party (NNP) administration has left it to cope with, be it the failure to find suitable projects for a $34 million grant from Britain or the state of play with a Russian oil company that had been contracted to search for commercial quantities of oil and gas off the island’s south coast.

In a matter of one week new Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell has gone public with some of the problems has administration has inherited from the defeated government. Its latest efforts to determine what exactly the last cabinet had done as it relates to arrangements with the Global Petroleum Group (GPG) and offshore exploration for oil and gas.

Mitchell, 45, says, a deal had been signed with GPG to explore offshore but the exercise ended abruptly and authorities are now desperately trying to find a proper paper trail pertaining to the contract with Grenada.

One of three planned wells were drilled by GPG but local authorities had said back then that the company had run broke and could not have continued neither the well-drilling exercise nor exploratory activities. The problem for the new administration is that it has very little in terms of contracts and documentation to work with. A desperate search is now underway, said PM Mitchell. The other Mitchell had announced a huge commercial oil and gas find from the first well, a mere 24 hours before the NNP had swept the polls in general elections, but the population of about 100,000 has heard little or nothing else ever since. The current cabinet said it was trying to work with the bits and pieces of information left by authorities.

“We are still in the process of making sure that we gather a complete picture of what has happened historically where we are and then to make a determination as to how we proceed in the future. I anticipate that in the next 30 days or so we will be in a better position to speak on this issue. We are putting together as much information as is possible. We have also been speaking with our colleagues in Trinidad & Tobago to get from them what information they have once we get that we will be in a better position to come to the public and let the public know exactly what we found, what the state of play is and how the government intends to move forward,” he told the New Today newspaper.

PM Mitchell said he had approached GPG officials for help but they had basically brushed him off.

Officials have said the deal with the Russians had always been shrouded in deep secrecy. As far back as 2008 when the Tillman Thomas administration was in power, the cabinet had ordered a probe into arrangements the Russians had made with the NNP. It too had unearthed little documentation, other than evidence that a senior government official back then had apparently collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Russians. Charges were recommended against the unidentified individual but he was not indicted. Keith Mitchell had even promised to sell any discovered gas to neighboring Trinidad. A memorandum of understanding was signed for this but no one is sure what happened after.

Speaking at the pre-election rally, Keith Mitchell had stated that “we can now confirm that we have found oil and gas in huge commercial quantities. Grenada is now on its way to becoming a major oil-producing country so when we say we shall become the dominant Caribbean economic powerhouse in 10 years – this is neither pipe dream nor idle boast,” he said at a campaign rally earlier this week. This, sisters and brothers, is a game changer,” he had said.

Grenada, Jamaica, Barbados and The Bahamas have all been stepping up efforts to attract exploration companies, encouraged by the massive oil and gas finds offshore fellow Caricom nations, Guyana and Suriname, Guyana in particular with more than 35 wells with confirmed commercial quantities of oil and gas in the last eight years.