The Bahamas pursues search for oil

The Bahamas pursues search for oil
The Bahamas Prime Minister, Hubert Minnis.
Associated Press / Martin Mejia

The Bahamas has become the latest of several Caribbean community nations joining the hunt for commercial quantities of oil and gas and has signed up with a British-based company to drill its first exploration well next year.

The Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) said this week that it had signed off on several agreements with Seadrill, one of the world’s largest offshore drilling rig firms, to bring in an ultra high technology drilling ship to spud its first offshore well. It is also teaming up with the infamous Halliburton company to provide support services, equipment, tools and drilling plans for the state firm officials said.

In moving to do so, The Bahamas now joins Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada among CARICOM nations ramping up efforts either to conduct seismic testing work offshore or are preparing for the first set of exploration wells in the coming months.

Of these, Jamaica is ahead of the pack as Tullow Oil of the United Kingdom has already completed seismic work off Jamaica’s south coast. Local fishermen constantly point officials to fresh water surface oil seeps. Authorities earlier this year also investigated oil and gas seeps at inland sites, raising hopes that a commercial find is just months away. Grenada on the other hand is dealing with Russian oil firms. Seismic work done in the past year also indicate the presence of hydrocarbons according to Prime Minister, Keith Mitchell.

Barbados, meanwhile has done much of the preliminary work to get Australia-based Billiton and Repsol of Spain as interested partners in drilling offshore, especially in waters between the island and oil and gas-rich Trinidad.

Barbados has for decades been an oil producer from a small amount of inland wells, yielding about 1,600 barrels per day. The other main producer is Suriname, also benefitting from inland wells in western Suriname near Guyana at the rate of about 16,000 barrels per day. It is yet to find offshore but the wild shout across the river border in Guyana where Exxon and Tullow oil have combined for 14 humungous wells have raised the hopes of similar finds in the much heralded Guyana-Suriname Basin. Actual production in Guyana is set for mid-November, making the country the world’s newest and most exciting producer.

Bahamian officials say the exploration work will begin “with or without” a major “farm in “partner like Exxon or Chevron as government has already tied up the framework deal with Seadrill for the rig and support services from Halliburton. Costs could run up to $50 million that it will try to raise for the drilling campaign.

All this is happening as Guyana, set to easily become the region’s largest producer in a matter of weeks, is preparing for the arrival this week of a massive Floating Production Storage and Offloading vessel (FPSO) which will be used as the main storage and processing facility once production begins in earnest. The Liza Destiny was built in Singapore and is expected to pull up near the first set of wells to be hooked up to underground systems. President David Granger and top energy officials are scheduled to fly to the FPSO at the weekend for a ceremony that would predate first oil by just a matter of weeks.

This is as excitement builds in neighboring Suriname as some of the same players-Exxon, Repsol and Tullow — all have interest there.

The Bahamas’ state company said it must begin its drilling program next year in keeping with its license or it will have to relinquish up to 50 percent of its concession in keeping with regulations.