By Marlon Madden
In about three weeks, Government should be re-opening the second Offshore Licensing Round for the drilling of oil offshore Barbados after it was postponed last December.
On December 1, 2022 the date given for the start of the round, Government announced that it would be relaunched in the first quarter of 2023 instead.
A statement from the Ministry of Energy stated that several companies had requested additional time to evaluate acreage and data. Government said this would also allow for amendments to the legislative and licensing frameworks that will allow the country to “improve efficiency and ease of doing business” within the sector.
During her March 14 Budget presentation, Prime Minister Mia Mottley said: “I expect that the new round will take place in the second week of April and this new push therefore, will facilitate and fast-track the processes and the direct state-to-state negotiations with
the amendments to come to Parliament,” she said.
Mottley said the Cabinet has already approved the recommended amendments to the Offshore Petroleum Act that should facilitate the launching of the new offshore bidding round.
She said officials from Scotland are expected to provide technical assistance in the area of offshore wind, with assistance from the International Finance Corporation (IFC).
“The initial prospectivity suggests that there may well be as much as over 42 trillion cubic feet of gas or 13 billion barrels of undiscovered oil,” said Mottley.
“The reality is though, that while you may have that cumulative amount, the 3-D seismic work will tell you what is immediately extractable and therefore, I don’t count my eggs before they are hatched,” she said.
The country currently produces about 1 600 barrels of onshore oil per day.
Around the middle of last year the Government announced its decision to open the bidding process on 22 blocks in Barbados’ waters.
Mottley noted that the drilling for gas offshore had the potential to create a range of new job opportunities for Barbadians:
“That is why we are walking in a very sure-footed way, because if it does work out, a few years from now it will mean the need for drillers, forement, health and safety officers, crew men, welders, mechanics, engineers and scientists.”
She said it would also require “a strong local content law to make sure Barbadians are not excluded”.
The finance minister dismissed the notion that Barbados should not be pursuing such activity as the country seeks to reach an ambitious target of ensuring the country is 100 per cent reliant on renewable forms of energy by 2030.
“There are those who may ask what are we doing? We have never said we can abandon that which we have . . . Unless there are countries or a country willing to pay us to keep our natural gas in the earth and in the seabed. If that is the case, come forward and we will talk, but until the international community is prepared to help us finance our way to net zero then we cannot leave our natural gas in the sea,” she argued.
“We see the natural gas as a means of propelling us to the production of nitrogen and other things, and we will speak in a more fulsome manner on this within the next month, because amendments will have to come to this Honourable House in order to allow us to both do a bid round in the traditional way, but also to do five rounds of state-to-state partnerships to be able to find a capital sum available to help the country through this difficult period in the next decade,” said Mottley.
“In addition to that, I say to you that in every instance, the rights of the Barbados National Oil Company will be at the core of what is protected and what is projected,” she added.
It was revealed last year that Woodside Energy, which was formerly BHP, had completed an approximately 2,600 square kilometre 3D seismic survey offshore
Barbados in the Carlisle Bay and Bimshire blocks. As far back as 2015, the then BHP was awarded a first offshore exploration licence for the Carlisle Bay and Bimshire Blocks. This followed the first Offshore Licensing Round several years prior.