Offshore oil and gas search starts in Jamaica

22 January 2015

Volume 39, Number 3

The independent UK gas and oil exploration and production company Tullow Oil has begun a seismic survey off Jamaica’s southern coast to determine whether there is the potential for oil and gas recovery in commercial quantities.

The 3,000 sq km survey forms a part of a work programme outlined in a Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) signed by the company in November 2014 with the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ).

The data capture is taking place in an area identified in the past by other companies as being a good frontier for exploration.

Speaking about the latest phase in the exploration process, the Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Phillip Paulwell, said that the company had already undertaken US$10m of work. He also commended Tullow for meeting with local fisher folk and being sensitive to their concerns.

“There has to be significant sensitisation and close working relationship so that the livelihoods of the fisher folks are not affected. Everybody is going to be aware of the exact position of the [survey] vessel when it is seeking to collect… additional data,” he said.

Following the two dimensional data acquisition by the BGP Challenger, there will be a processing period of six to nine months, then data interpretation.

“A decision will then take place as to whether we go to the next phase, which will be a three-dimensional seismic programme, which will be an extensive operation, taking six to nine months to acquire,” according to the Sustainability External Affairs Manager of New Venture Business for Tullow Oil Plc, John McKenna.

The PCJ’s Group General Manager, Winston Watson, said, “The search for oil and gas is a long-term undertaking but it is encouraging to be at this phase of the Production Sharing Agreement with Tullow, which will help to guide us on the way forward.”  He also noted that as well executing the agreement with Tullow, the Corporation was actively seeking additional investors for Jamaica’s remaining blocks.

The project is proceeding after receiving the blessing of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and promises being made to the local fishing community relating to any matter arising requiring compensation, according to Jamaica’s Minister of State, Julian Robinson.

It is the first exploration offshore in Jamaica for 10 years and interestingly is taking place at a time when oil prices globally have sunk to a low of US$25 per barrel.

Speaking to the Jamaica Gleaner, Mr Paulwell said, “Although we are convinced that we have oil and gas in and around Jamaica, we really have to pinpoint the location before drilling can take place.”

The minister noted that when the agreement was signed 15 months ago, the price of oil was well over US$100 a barrel. “Today, it is about US$30, but they are still committed, and not only them, since we signed the agreement, others have approached PCJ.”



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