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

In the last eight years, two of the Caribbean Community’s largest and most resource-rich countries—Guyana and Suriname—have found extremely large deposits of offshore oil and gas, setting the stage for massive economic transformation of a kind that could be the envy of its regional neighbors.

Of the two, “world-class deposits” of oil and gas were discovered in Guyana back in 2015. The amount was so large, the crude so light and so cheap to produce, that an international consortium led by U.S. supermajor ExxonMobil broke all records by rushing into actual production by the end of 2019, less than five years after the first discovery. Experts say this was probably an industry record for field development in deep-sea waters. They are already raking in billions. Stockholders are enjoying a windfall.

Neighboring Suriname followed suit months after but, unlike Guyana, all of its proverbial development ducks are not as well lined up, so actual production is not expected to begin before 2027. Exploration wells are, however, still being worked on by consortium groupings comprising the likes of Total of France, Apache and Kosmos Energy of the U.S., Petronas of Malaysia, and Tullow Oil of the United Kingdom.

The Guyana oil shout and mutterings that the country could be the Dubai of the Caribbean in a decade have led to a mad scramble by other Caricom bloc member nations to also attract global supermajors to search for offshore oil.

Just last week, authorities in Barbados gave the strongest indication yet that it is looking at a similar type of economic transformation in the near future through commercial discoveries.

Senior Barbadian Minister Kerry Symmonds said the prospects of such a find have never been higher as several blocks officials are confident that large deposits of hydrocarbons have been identified.

“I don’t want to go and give news now before it is ready to be given, but let us say the prospectivity is highly regarded,” he told a local academic forum in the Eastern Caribbean tourism paradise. The Today newspaper quoted him as saying that “we want to be able to have natural gas as the bridging fuel as well” 

Barbados has no major offshore discoveries, but for decades, has been producing about 1,600 barrels of oil daily for inland wells. It neighbor Trinidad has been producing oil and gas—gas especially—in large quantities for more than 100 years. It thinks its prospects are great.

Late last year, the government placed 22 offshore blocks on the international market for companies to bid on, but it is unclear whether this has created any excitement so far. Neighboring Guyana recently placed 14 blocks near the area where Exxon, Hess Corporation, and CNOOC of China are producing nearly 400,000 barrels per day, raking in billions because production costs per barrels have never been shown to exceed $35 per barrel. International prices at the beginning of this week hovered around $76.00 per barrel, making an easy profit for the consortium.

Of the other nations in the block, efforts by the Bahamas Petroleum Corporation to explore offshore have been blocked by a tough and persistent environmental lobby that says it fears a spill could ruin tourism. In nearby Jamaica, oil leaks on shore and slicks in waters off the south coast have ignited much excitement, with efforts by authorities to attract the bigger oil players ongoing.

Grenada has also toyed with the idea of attracting exploration companies, well aware that its close proximity to daily producer Trinidad could bode well for its own prospects, but not much noise has been made in the past five years.

Symmonds meanwhile sought to dispel fears that the growing strength of the clean energy lobby could upset global efforts to explore for oil and gas, arguing that this is not the case.

 “Let’s be frank: All of the oil producers of the world, including Canada, speak the language of climate change and putting a stop to that, which is now being done by small entities or like those of us in Barbados who are contemplating finding natural gas, but the reality is, none of them is saying ‘I will not continue to produce the oil that I produce’ or ‘I’m shutting down all my wells,’” he said. “The Americans are not going to tell you that that’s what’s going to happen in Texas. The British, for all their partnership value, will not tell you that the North Sea will not be full of Brent crude. They’re not going to do that because they intend to produce for the next 50 years. Nobody is coming forward to say we are prepared to pay you to keep the natural gas and the oil in the ground.”

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Some mad people in Guyana don’t want foreigners or returnees yet are begging the same people abroad to send money in their house that they either own, inherit or pay little to no rent.

    Barbadians should not fall into the hubris trap of Guyanese.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *