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Oil prospects – Exploration could mean export boost for Barbados

Article by: Marlon Madden, taken from Barbados Today – Wednesday September 28, 2022

Minister of Energy Kerrie Symmonds has defended Government’s push towards hydrocarbon exploration noting that oil and natural gas finds could mean significant foreign exchange earnings for the economy.

What is more, he said an oil find would put the country in a position to fund its energy transition, which will require several components and could cost well over $1 billion for battery storage and billions more for the renewable energy mix needed.

“You have to have a combination of things, You have to have wind – offshore more than likely – but an offshore small wind farm by the world standards, maybe 150 megawatts or 200 megatwatts, will cost this country $2 billion and it has to be financed,” said Symmonds.

“Therefore we say to you, if we were to find the hydrocarbon resources, and we know there is a demand for the resources, we are quite prepared to sell to meet that demand to finance the way forward for this country’s purposes in so far as clean energy is concerned,” he said.

Government is pushing ahead with plans to make Barbados 100 per cent reliant on renewable energy sources by 2030. At the same time, the administration has announced that by the end of this year the bidding process for licences to drill for oil and natural gas within some 22 blocks in Barbados’ waters will begin.

This follows a seismic study which was carried out by oil giant BHP, which was taken over by Woodside Energy this year.

Addressing a Barbados International Business Association (BIBA) business luncheon on Wednesday at the Savannah Beach Club, Symmonds responded to critics, whom he said were taking Government to task for going after hydrocarbon finds when the country should be focused on building out its renewable energy sector.

He told the luncheon, which had as its theme The Road Ahead for Global Business in Barbados, that it was Government’s intention to form closer linkages between the energy sector and the global business sector “in a more decisive and fundamental way”.

“The fact of the matter is that there has been a lot of recent seismic data that convinces us that there is good hydrocarbon prospectivity in the deep and ultra deep waters of Barbados,” said Symmonds, who pointed to a number of oil discoveries in the neighbouring waters of Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname.

“Based on the seismic data, the final results of which we should receive next month, there is every good reason to believe that Barbados may be a missing piece in what is becoming a red zone of gas discoveries in the Caribbean and quite frankly, in the world,” he said.

Symmonds said some people were “making the error” of thinking that hydrocarbon exploration and renewable energy expansion could not co-exist.

“The Barbados National Energy Policy was passed in the Parliament of Barbados in 2019. That energy policy makes it unequivocally and abundantly clear that on the basis and the fact that we have for almost a century been finding oil or gas around Barbados . . . makes it clear that those hydrocarbons that we can find we would use for export purposes,” said Symmonds.

“The world is not going to stop using hydrocarbons in 2030 or 2040 or, quite frankly, in 2050. People are making commitments and some of them are already walking back from the commitments. The fact of the matter is yes, we want to get to a hydrogen-driven world, and that would perhaps be the ideal, but that is going to be a long journey, many miles to go before we can get there. And during that period of time, this country has to be able to finance the plan that we have to move from where we are today to be entirely fossil fuel free in our domestic space,” he explained.

Pointing to the recent Nord Stream pipeline explosion, Symmonds said this was another reason for an increase in global demand for natural gas and current suppliers would not be able to satisfy those demands.

He said “It would be a foolhardy thing for Barbados, given all of the financial realities that we confront, to decide that we are going to find or have the resource but choose not to exploit the resource for export purposes or even in the context of gas, using it as a bridging fuel to get us to where we need to be.

“Therefore, I say to you, if we were to find oil offshore then that is put into the international marketplace because aeroplanes are still flying on gas and aeroplanes are still going to be requiring hydrocarbons. The ships that are sailing on the sea may move to a natural gas technology because that is seen as the bridging fuel, but again if we can find gas, we are supplying the globe’s demand for bridging fuel,” he said.

He also pointed out that experienced oil producers, despite many of them talking about climate adaptation, were not ready to put an end to their oil production and would not be coming to Barbados’ aid to help fund the renewable energy transition.


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