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Another oil exploration delay

After two delays and at an increased cost of $36 million, this island’s sole state-owned oil drilling company is embarking on a revised onshore oil exploration and production programme in early October with the digging of ten new wells.

Manager of the Barbados National Oil Company (BNOC) Winton Gibbs said the start of the programme was rescheduled from last year to between July and August this year when five wells were to be drilled at a cost of $15 million.


Gibbs told Barbados TODAY the reasons that led to last year’s postponemen continued to exist, leading to yet another delay this year.

“One is, we have made a decision to refurbish all our rigs and to make the drilling rigs more efficient and more versatile . . . so they could reach a depth of close to 10,000 feet.  The existing wells can reach a depth of 6,500 feet to 7,000 feet with some effort.  The company will also be securing some other work-over wireline equipment,” he pointed out.

Stating that the upgrade would make the rigs safer, the BNOC head noted that this preparatory work was now in its final stages.    

The exploration and production programme is seen by Gibbs as the way to help slash the country’s oil import bill, which was about $800 million two years ago.

The oil executive revealed that the BNOC would be sinking ten new wells –– three exploration ones at Society, St John and the others would be developmental wells in Woodbourne, St Philip, where the company has its headquarters.

Gibbs said BNOC would seek to determine oil and gas reserves in existence at Society as a new field.

“The exploration wells are more expensive because they normally go to a greater depth and they are located in virgin territory. In 2012, the company drilled one well at Society but we encountered some challenges in that area.

“The sample suggests the presence of hydrocarbon, but we were not able to complete that well, and that is why we are going back to the same area with at least three wells,”  he explained

Gibbs said Woodbourne was an aging field and it was more costly to produce the balance of the reserves there.  “It’s important that we find a new field,” he added.

He said while his company was looking at Society, the search would be extended in the future to other areas such as Flat Rock, St George and Fisherpond, St Thomas.

BNOC produces just around 700 barrels of oil per day. Gibbs was unable to give the latest figures for Barbados’ daily domestic requirements, explaining that with the introduction of renewable energy, the fossil fuel needs would now be less.

He said BNOC did not see the use of renewables as adversely impacting the company’s operations, simply because it was using renewables as well.

He considered the application of renewable energy to be a good thing for Barbados, particularly in the saving of foreign exchange and a reduction in the oil import bill.

Barbados relies almost entirely on fuel oil and diesel to generate electricity, 90 per cent of which is imported.

Oil imports in 2009 and 2010 totalled some $230 million, the equivalent of nearly six per cent of Gross National Product (GDP), or about what the Government spends annually on education, according to a recent statement by Senator Darcy Boyce, the Minister responsible for Energy.

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