Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) has announced its intention to start looking for oil 150 miles off the coast of Florida.
BPC has already contracted the UK-registered vessel, the Stena IceMAX drillship to begin work on the Perseverance No. 1 oil well in the southern Bahamas waters, miles off the coast of the Sunshine State.
The vessel, currently anchored in Las Palmas in the Canary Islands is scheduled to arrive in The Bahamas on or around December 15.
In making the announcement in a regulatory filing last week, BPC anticipates that it will take four to five days from the start date for the rig to be provisioned, loaded and then transitioned to the drilling location. An exploratory well is an initial step by oil explorers to check the size and volume of oil deposits in a basin or production area.
BPC has said that Perseverance No. 1 is a “potentially basin-opening well with the kind of scale and associated value uplift exposure rarely offered outside of oil majors.” In preliminary seismic testing earlier this year, BPC reported that the tests showed that the area has potential oil reserves of more than two billion barrels.
Problems on the horizon
However, BPC could face problems with environmentalists, who say the drilling poses a series of potential threats to marine ecosystems in the Caribbean and in Florida. They are urging the Bahamian authorities to cancel the oil exploration licenses and permanently ban offshore drilling in the islands.
According to the environmentalists, “the risks involved in oil drilling greatly outweigh the potential benefits to the Bahamian people, and that the government should continue to focus on tourism as a key source of revenue.”
Though US President Donald Trump signed an executive order earlier this year extending a ban on oil drilling off the Florida coastline, the environmentalists say the exploration areas in The Bahamas are just too close.
They charged that the archipelago is in the path of hurricanes and tropical storms that will only become more intense as a result of climate change.
Campaign growing against drilling
A number of environmental groups including Oceana and several conservation organisations such as Waterkeeper Alliance and Bonefish as well as Tarpon Trust wrote to Bahamian Prime Minister, Hubert Minnis earlier this month opposing the planned drilling.
In their letter, the groups raised grave concerns about the matter, pointing to the lack of a cumulative impact analysis, which they argue is a basic component of any Environmental Impact Assessment (EAI).
They contend that the EIA for this particular exploratory drilling project “is at times referring to a single exploratory well, and at times a series of three exploratory wells.”
The environmentalists claim that the EAI completely fails to show how it relates to a full drilling program that includes production and pumping of oil at multiple locations, as well as storage and transfer of crude oil from producing wells.
In their letter to Minnis, the environmentalists remarked, “Please let the Bahamas continue to be known for pristine waterways and a commitment to a sustainable economy, not dirty fossil fuels or another tragic, uncontrolled and economically devastating oil disaster.”
Campaign Director for Oceana, Diane Hoskins weighed in on the impasse over the planned drilling declaring that oil exploration is a very dangerous business that poses huge risks to coastal communities in the Bahamas and in Florida.
Contact was made with the Bahamas Ministry of Environment and Housing for a reply on the issues raised by environmentalists about the environmental impact assessment of the Perseverance Number 1 well drilling project, but none was forthcoming.
As the Bahamas struggles to recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Dorian in September last year, oil production has emerged as a way to boost economic activity and create jobs.
The argument for economic diversification by investing in the oil and gas industry is gaining strength, especially after ExxonMobil discovered large offshore reserves near Guyana in 2015.