NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) yesterday asserted that Bahamians have a right to know whether there are commercial quantities of oil in the country, pushing back against claims from environmental opponents.
The company has been preparing for exploratory drilling for 10 years and claims it has spent more than $110 million to-date.
BPC expects to drill an exploratory oil well in Bahamian territorial waters off Andros and adjacent to the Bahamian/Cuban maritime border in late-December 2020.
Simon Potter, BPC CEO, said: “The Bahamian government is exercising its legitimate, sovereign right to find out if The Bahamas has its own hydrocarbon — oil — resource, which we believe could be substantial. Now, more than ever, with the islands facing economic fragility, suffering from both the aftermaths of hurricane damage and the impacts of COVID-19, a successful discovery has the potential to boost government revenues by billions of dollars in royalties, and allow for the creation of new contracts and jobs.
“Based upon our extensive interactions with communities throughout the islands over many years, we believe there is a silent multitude of Bahamians who are in favor of knowing the outcome of our 45 to 60-day fact-finding exercise — named Perseverance #1. But, as we have stated time and again, oil will not actually be produced from this exploratory drilling activity. Once scientific tests establish if oil is present, the well will be permanently sealed. We firmly believe that the people of The Bahamas have a right to know if this resource exists, which could deliver considerable wealth for not only this generation of Bahamians but for future generations to come.”
Potter noted that many other nations in the region such as Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Guyana, have over the past decades safely and responsibly drilled offshore wells, developed offshore hydrocarbon resources and reaped the economic benefits.
He further noted that these other nations have been able to do so in parallel with growing and developing existing industry sectors, such as tourism and fisheries, adding that there is no reason to believe Bahamians cannot do the same.
Oil exploration opponents represented by Fred Smith, QC, are hoping to halt BPC’s activities via an injunction.
“BPC considers the characterization of the environmental risks put forward by Mr Smith to be significantly exaggerated, inaccurate in many parts and ill-informed of the extreme precautionary environmental preparedness and the science and technical expertise that is the foundation of modern-day oil exploration. Indeed, BPC notes that it is precisely because of these extreme precautionary environmental measures that in the past 10 years, over 10,000 offshore oil wells have been drilled safely and without incident all around the world,” the company said.
It added: “Many of Mr Smith’s assertions do not appear to stand up under scrutiny of [neither] the facts, nor the extensive body of work undertaken by BPC over more than a decade to prepare for this activity, during which process BPC and the government were assisted by a large number of globally renowned environmental scientists, consultants and environmental service companies.
“In terms of the facts, the drilling site is located in the far-southern waters of The Bahamas, in an international shipping thoroughfare which already hosts considerable daily shipping traffic, including numerous oil tankers. The well site is more than 90 miles from the nearest inhabited Bahamian island (Andros), and approximately 270 miles from Nassau. The well site is not in a marine protected area, and is remote from regular Bahamian fishing and tourism industries.”
BPC Lead Environmental Scientist Roberta Quant said: “The well location is in an existing international shipping lane, the Old Bahama Channel, which already typically sees three million barrels (over 120 million gallons) a day of oil pass through it, and which is only likely to increase with the expansion of the Panama Canal and with access to the deep-water port at Grand Bahama. Furthermore, there is already considerable ongoing oil production activity and associated refining and terminal capacity in the area. Indeed, it is worth noting that oil drilling already occurs safely in Cuba — as close to the drilling location as the island of Andros.”
According to Quant, BPC initially submitted its documentation to the ministry for review and consideration by the BEST Commission on behalf of the government as far back as 2012.
“This documentation, upgraded and improved many times, specifically addressed matters relevant to a detailed description of the company’s proposed well activities, with comprehensive information associated with risk mitigation equipment, processes and systems and associated incident emergency response plans,” said Quant.
She added: “It is worth noting that all of our documentation was reviewed by multiple external parties, including in particular by a leading international environmental consultant firm hired by and working exclusively for the government. It was only after their sign-off was obtained that the EA was granted. And I’d point out that BPC’s documentation is publicly available for review by anyone — the Environmental Impact Assessment study, for example, has been available online since 2012, open to scrutiny and comment by all. Although to my knowledge, in all that time, those who purport to represent environmental interests who now seem so concerned with our planned activities have never raised any queries or comments, despite having had ample and continuous opportunity to do so.”