BRIDGETOWN: Barbados has signed two offshore exploration agreements with the Australian-based oil company, BHP Billiton.
“Signing these two exploration licences will send a clear message to the industry that Barbados is open for business and is serious about the development of its offshore petroleum sector,” said Prime Minister Freundel Stuart as he signed the agreement last week with BHP Billiton Vice President of Exploration, Dr. Niall McCormack. “In addition, Barbadian nationals stand to reap early benefits on execution of the licences through the negotiated provisions for annual training, scholarships, local content, coastal and marine environment research and the acquisition of critical equipment and software.”
A government statement said that the two blocks for exploration – Carlisle Bay and Bimshire – are approximately 40 kilometres southeast of the island and total about 5,000 square kilometres.
Stuart said that every Barbadian was a stakeholder in the offshore petroleum program and promised that his administration would ensure the benefits derived from offshore exploration and production activities were spread evenly across the economic and social spectra for present and future generations.
Stuart said his government had taken great care in formulating a robust regulatory regime and legislative framework that would ensure all offshore exploration and production activities were undertaken in accordance with the highest industry standards.
“The government will expect no less than the highest commitment to the preservation and protection of our coastal and marine environment, as well as the communities in which BHP will operate,” he said.
Barbados launched its first Offshore Licensing Round in 2007, with the offshore territory being subdivided into 26 blocks. Of the 26 blocks, 24 were made available for bidding.
The government statement said that on conclusion of the process, BHP Billiton emerged as the only successful bidder and was awarded the two blocks in 2008.
Since then, Stuart said government and BHP Billiton had engaged in intense negotiations to finalize the exploration.
“Today, Barbados’ offshore petroleum acreage remains largely underexplored with both local and international geological experts agreeing that all the necessary elements for a productive petroleum system are present in the offshore,” he said.
Stuart said Woodbourne Oil Field was showing signs of steady decline, producing about 700 barrels of crude oil and 1.9 million cubic feet of natural gas daily.
The prime minister said during the period 2003 to 2013, Barbados’ average annual fuel import bill stood at BDS $542.3 million (one BDS dollar=US$0.50 cents) and in 2012, it reached a peak of BDS $807.8 million, which equated to 9.6 per cent of the gross domestic product.
“Expending such significant amounts of capital on the importation of fossil fuels has impacted government’s ability to allocate the desired level of financial resources across other areas of critical national importance such as education, health and social development.
“It is in this context that the signing of the offshore exploration licences for the Carlisle Bay and Bimshire blocks becomes increasingly important to Barbados’ energy future and the development of its people, goods and services,” said Stuart.