Gov’t embarks on another oil exploration project

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

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THE Government should have a clearer picture of the country’s potential for commercial quantities of oil in another nine months with the commencement of exploratory seismic surveys by Tullow Jamaica, off the south coast of the island, this week.

The seismic vessel
BGP Challenger, which has been docked at the Port of Kingston since Monday, will carry out the two-dimensional seismic survey of 3,000 kilometres of seafloor, beginning with blocks off the south coast, where it will capture images of rock layers beneath the seafloor and analyse these for hydrocarbons. The survey will be conducted over 30 days.

On a media tour of the vessel yesterday, Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell emphasised that the US$70-million project is fully funded by the private sector, and that Tullow has already done $10-million worth of preliminary work. This phase of the project will cost $4 million.

He said the Government was pleased that despite the decline in oil prices, Tullow had stuck to the Production Sharing Agreement which it signed with the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica in November 2014.

"It demonstrates their confidence in the project. What we are trying to do is achieve the finest amount of data in the history of our oil and gas exploration efforts," the minister stated.

Paulwell said also that it was hoped that the programme would attract other investors now that Tullow had started the physical works. "There are other players who have expressed deep interest in the additional areas that we have to pursue. Negotiations are taking place with one other major player and we hope to conclude those negotiations shortly," he said.

He stressed in a
Jamaica Observer interview that the livelihood of fisherfolk will be protected during the exploration. "They have worked out (an agreement) with the company (for) a grievance settlement process. In the event of any mishaps, they will be entitled to compensation," he said, noting that there has also been full consultation and information sharing.

"So the whereabouts of this vessel will be known to all the fisherfolk, they will have enough time to remove their nets so that equipment has not damaged," he said, adding that while the level of disruption could range from minor to major, "what is important is that they know before hand when the vessel is coming. It is only where those equipment are in the area and get damaged where they will be entitled to compensation".

The minister said the National Environment and Planning Agency has granted full approval for the vessel to conduct its work.

Sustainability and external affairs manager for Tullow Oil PLC (London), John McKenna, explained that this is the second phase of the programme which follows a bathymetry survey which was done last year.

He also told the
Observer that it is too early to tell what to expect, but that the two-dimensional survey would "build up" a much better understanding and fill in the gaps.

"We are probably not an awful lot further ahead in our evaluation of the potential (since the 2015 survey), but we will be getting a much better picture once we do these surveys," he said.

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