Bahamas gov't allows search for oil offshore
Published on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 00:00
Written by AP
NASSAU — Offshore oil exploration will be allowed off the Bahamas, the
environmental minister said Sunday, adding that a voter referendum on
whether to go forward with full production will be held only after it is
determined whether the island chain has commercially viable reserves.
The exploratory drilling will not likely produce enough information to
make a decision until late 2014 at the earliest and the referendum could
be held the following year, Environmental Minister Kenred Dorsett said.
Offshore drilling is sensitive in the Bahamas, where many fear a spill
could devastate the fishing and tourism industries. The previous
Bahamian government had delayed issuing exploration permits. Prime
Minister Perry Christie, who was voted back into office in May, has said
he supported exploration.
Dorsett said the government would seek new regulations to protect the
environment and cannot ignore the potential economic benefits of oil for
a country that now imports fuel.
"The discovery of oil in the Bahamas would almost certainly prove to be
economically transformative for our nation for many generations to
come," he said in a statement.
The announcement came after a delegation of Bahamian officials,
including Dorsett, recently returned from neighboring Cuba, where he
said they discussed that country's exploration efforts and the "need for
enhanced environmental vigilance and protection."
Geologic surveys say 5 billion to 9 billion barrels of oil may lie off
Cuba's coast. Three exploratory wells proved nonviable in 2012, a blow
to a government eager for an injection of petrodollars to boost its
struggling economy. In December, a Norwegian-owned platform arrived in
waters off Cuba's north-central coast for exploratory drilling by the
Russian oil company Zarubezhneft for operations expected to take six months.
The private Bahamas Petroleum Company hopes to begin exploration in a
block about 97 kilometers from where the Russian company is drilling off
Cuba, according to CEO Simon Potter. The company still needs to find a
drilling partner but hopes to begin what will likely be a year-long
exploration before the 2014 hurricane season.