Plans for offshore oil exploration in Barbados look set to move a step closer to reality.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart announced over the weekend that he will give the go-ahead this week to an Australian oil exploration company, BHP Billiton, to map reserves of oil and natural gas within the island’s territorial waters.
Stuart told a ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) event that he will sign an agreement permitting the company to begin exploration offshore where he said there were ‘impressive’ deposits of fossil fuel based on seismic data.
Offshore oil exploration is one aspect of a two-pronged approach by Government to meeting the island’s future energy needs with oil and renewable energy.
“We hope that by the year 2029, that 29 per cent of our electricity generation will be from renewable sources,” he told a joint meeting of the DLP’s St Michael South, St Michael South-East, and City branches at the Springer Memorial School.
Speaking of Government’s plan for a ‘judicious mix’ of fossil fuel and renewable energy going forward, Stuart said: “since, in addition to relying on renewable sources of energy, we’re not giving up our fossil fuel capabilities, sometime this week I have to sit and sign an agreement with an oil company which has been awarded blocks in our offshore jurisdiction…”
Barbados Government officials have been talking for some time about oil exploration with BHP Billiton.
The exploration deal was made possible through two pieces of legislation, The Offshore Petroleum Taxation Act, 2001, and The Offshore Petroleum Act 2007 passed by the Owen Arthur-led former Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration.
Subsequently, Billiton’s bid to explore was approved over Windward (Barbados) Exploration and Jupiter Petroleum.
Government and the Australian firm initialed a licence to explore in 2014, with Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler promising a public signing of the agreement in 2015.
Stuart also told DLP faithful Sunday night that the Government’s energy policy promoting a mix of renewable energy and fossil fuel use “should put us in a position where Barbados can be more economically viable.”
He again spoke about the “creation of a Barbados that is socially balanced, economically viable, environmentally sound, and characterized by good and sound government”, the DLP’s mantra in the 2013 general election.
He said in pursuit of this goal, a major challenge had been the cost of energy.
“Because we have had to import oil at those stubborn and difficult prices, we’ve not been able to some of the things we wanted to do,” he said. “So we’ve now put in place legislation, the whole object of which, is to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel use for the generation of energy.”