Informacion economica sobre Cuba

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.

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