Bridgetown, Barbados (292031)
Bridgetown, Barbados Credit: Cyril Josh Barker photo

While the 15-nation CARICOM bloc of nations is leading the fight to cut fossil fuel emissions into the atmosphere, a number of member nations are still trying to woo the world’s super major oil companies to explore for offshore oil and gas off their coasts.

Just this week, tiny Barbados signaled its intention to place more than 20 oil blocks up for auction later this year as its hopes to join oil and gas-rich neighbors Guyana and Suriname as the latest regional countries to become daily oil producers. Since it first discovered offshore oil in mid-2015, Guyana has become a producer with a daily output of about 350,000 barrels per day of sweet light crude, which places its product in the high demand areas in major oil markets. Suriname, which found its own offshore deposits more than four years after neighboring Guyana, is on course to become an actual daily producer by late 2024.

Since 2015, Guyana and Suriname have discovered some of the world’s largest deposits of offshore oil in a basin that the US Geological Surveys had for decades predicted would have been one of the best and largest on the planet. Estimates of the basin run at more than 16 billion barrels. The strike rate in the Guyana portion of the basin brings success about 80 percent of the time wells are drilled.

Now, the Mia Mottley administration in the Caribbean island chain’s most easterly island is hoping to find oil and gas deposits in its exclusive economic zone in waters near oil and gas-rich Trinidad and Tobago.

Like Suriname, Barbados produces about 1,600 barrels (Suriname 17,000) of onshore oil daily, but authorities hope that the auction round of 22 blocks will attract some of the biggest oil firms in the world to its potential offshore deposits.

The Oil Now publication reported this week that the energy ministry has formally invited oil majors to send in offers and indications of interest in the lead up to the period beginning in November and closing in late 2023.

Energy Minister Kerrie Symmonds says a major find could improve the fortunes of the more than 300,000 citizens, create jobs and bring in loads of foreign exchange to the tourism-dependent country.

“You may, by now, be wondering why the government is pursuing the development of offshore hydrocarbon resources while simultaneously advancing investment in renewable and alternative energy. The answer to this is because the government recognises the importance of advocating for energy security with an emphasis on the broad diversification of our energy mix and portfolio,” he told a local forum recently. “The campaign will be governed by the island’s petroleum laws and regulations, namely offshore petroleum act.”

Several other CARICOM countries, including The Bahamas, Jamaica, and Grenada have made moves in recent years to attract oil companies to explore for oil and gas. In the case of Jamaica, there are strong indications of seepage of both products on land as well as offshore. The Bahamas government on the other hand, has placed a clamp on the local oil company from further exploratory drilling as it has bowed to the environmental and tourism lobby which both argue that any oil spill will wipe out tourism. Grenada, less than 60 miles north of Trinidad, is also fixing to attract oil companies as it is confident that its location near Trinidad and Venezuela should mean that it is in the mix as well.

And Guyana, whose basin is now regarded as a well proven one, is also preparing to auction a number of acres near Exxon’s prolific Stabroek Block where more than 30 gushing wells have been found since 2015.

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