Barbados is getting ready to restart fossil fuel exploration, the Ministry of Energy announced Monday.
Despite being severely hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, both Energy Minister Kerrie Symmonds and Jamar White, Director of Natural Resources in the Division of Energy have told lawmakers that everything is now in place for its resumption.
White explained that in January 2020, Barbados awarded licences to Australian oil and gas exploration company BHP to explore the country’s offshore acreage for hydrocarbons.
BHP was awarded two blocks, dubbed Carlisle Bay and Bimshire.
Just as exploration was set to begin last year, the COVID-19 pandemic caused restrictions on business travel and conducting operations, White told the Standing Finance Committee at the opening session of the 2021/2022 Estimates in Parliament.
“So we’re now at the stage where the company is ready to commence its offshore exploration work in 2021,” he said. “Over the last year while we were on pause due to COVID we were negotiating with the company to explore ways in which we could improve the exploration work programme.”
He said BHP would be holding public consultations on the exploration drive soon.
Symmonds noted that the necessary preparatory work, logos, marketing and consultancies for the drilling had all been completed.
He also disclosed that Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago had recently completed negotiations related to drilling close to the maritime border of the two countries.
He said that the treaty was critical because of the oil-producing neighbour’s expertise in drilling.
Symmonds told the House: “The offshore exploration efforts would have been paused after we had successfully concluded a unitization agreement between the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and the Government of Barbados, which would have been around sometime in March of last year.
“That unitization agreement allows us to be able to share along the maritime border between the two countries’ drilling operations…it is now possible that a country with substantially more experience in deep-sea oil exploration like Trinidad would have been in a position to have seismic data on wells which border the line between Barbados and themselves.
“So therefore what we have been able to achieve, and this was completed just before there was a reshuffle of the Cabinet, was the unitization agreement which allows now for there to be a meeting of minds between two responsible countries in the way in which we treat to these matters of shared drilling operations in the maritime space between us.
“The COVID-19 circumstances did not spare the energy sector and therefore there was a pause in the process of our offshore exploration preparations between March and April of last year and now. We expect that in the second quarter of this year we will be ready to host a roadshow that will see the blocks in the maritime space of Barbados being available for potential investment and expressions of interest for those persons or those entities which have an interest in the seismic data and the opportunity to drill in the maritime acreage of the country.” (RB)