The Bahamas: Activists Push to Stop BPC's Offshore Drilling Project

December 10, 2020

Stena Icemax - Iulian Hirlea/MarineTraffic
Stena Icemax - Iulian Hirlea/MarineTraffic

Environmental activists are seeking to prevent Bahamas Petroleum Company from drilling its Perseverance #1 well offshore the Bahamas, just days ahead of the expected spud date.

As previously reported, Bahamas Petroleum Company has hired Stena Drilling's Stena IceMAX drillship to drill the Perseverance #1 exploration well, in the far southern territorial waters of The Bahamas. The rig departed from Las Palmas in the last week of November, and is set to reach Freeport on December 15, ahead of the expected start of drilling.

However, BPC said Thursday that an application has been made to the Supreme Court of The Bahamas, for leave to make an application for judicial review of the decision taken by the Government of The Bahamas in February 2020 to grant Environmental Authorisation for BPC's Perseverance #1 well "which is expected to spud imminently."

The application has been brought by a number of environmental activists. The applicants are also seeking a stay of the Environmental Authorisation pending the outcome of any judicial review, an extension of time to make their application, and have raised a number of other legal arguments in support of their claims, BPC said.

"The respondent to the application is the Government of The Bahamas. The applicants have specifically sought to exclude BPC from being heard in relation to this matter. BPC understands that the Government of The Bahamas will oppose the application, and BPC intends to apply to the Court to be heard as a person affected and to oppose the application," BPC added.

BPC: Spud date nearing - Application without merit 

BPC said that given that its drilling operations are scheduled to begin before the end of 2020, it anticipates that the application for a stay will be determined definitively by the Court on an expedited basis, prior to drilling operations starting. 

"BPC believes the application to be without legal basis or merit and considers that there should be no legal impediment to proceeding with the drilling of the Perseverance #1 well," BPC said.

Below is the full statement by Simon Potter, CEO of BPC, who said the company would vigorously oppose the application.

He said: "Yesterday's application for a judicial review, an extension of time and a stay, from a group of environmental activists, is entirely without merit. BPC will vigorously oppose the application, and we understand that the Government of The Bahamas will be doing likewise. 

"BPC's drilling plans have been public knowledge for almost a decade, and the Government provided Environmental Authorisation to BPC in February 2020, following an extensive program of work. Environmental activists could have sought to bring this application at any time - that they have waited until now, on the cusp of drilling, speaks to their true agenda, which is not any real concern for judicial process but simply to disrupt and stop our lawful activity."

"The Government of The Bahamas is exercising its legitimate, sovereign right to establish if the nation of The Bahamas has its own commercial hydrocarbon resource. With the islands facing economic fragility, suffering from both hurricane damage and the impacts of Covid-19, a successful petroleum discovery has the potential to rebase the economy, generate billions in revenues over the life of the project and create new contracts and jobs. No oil will be produced by Perseverance #1 as it is purely a fact-finding exercise of short duration. 

(The text continues below the map)Map Credit: BPC

"The people of The Bahamas have a right to know if this resource is there for them and for future generations of Bahamians. In the past 10 years, many thousands of offshore oil wells have been drilled safely and without incident all around the world, and many other nations in the region such as the USA, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Guyana, have over the past decades safely and responsibly drilled offshore wells, developed or continue to develop offshore hydrocarbon resources, and reaped the economic benefits of an established or a whole new industry. 

"Moreover, these other nations have been able to do so at the same time as seeing growth and development of existing industry sectors, such as tourism.

"The Government of The Bahamas is to be commended for the thorough, comprehensive process of review and scrutiny they put BPC through over nearly a decade around the Environmental Authorisation process for the drilling of the well, as well as for the Petroleum Act and Petroleum Operations related Regulations which were passed into law in 2016. 

"In gaining its Environmental Authorisation, BPC adhered to all applicable Bahamian laws, and over and above this adhered to all applicable guidelines, international standards and best practices. We look forward to proceeding with Perseverance #1 on schedule, and fulfilling our licence commitments to the Government of The Bahamas."

"Flawed approval process"

In a statement issued in November, environmental group Our Islands, Our Future, said it believed there were certain fundamental flaws in the approvals process, "including a deficient Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and a lack of proper consultation at various
stages, which means that BPC’s approvals need to be revisited."

Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, Executive Director of marine environment group BREEF said:" “We have asked repeatedly to be consulted on the details of the deal, to see the drilling licenses themselves, for access to more information on BPC’s insurance coverage and the environmental sensitivity maps they have supposedly compiled. It seems appealing to the courts is the only way to achieve some transparency.”

“For example, we are being asked to take their word that the company has adequate insurance. What does that even mean in this context? The Deepwater Horizon disaster took place while BP was trying to cap the exploratory well and it cost $65 billion to clean up. We find it highly unlikely
that BPC has insurance coverage to that level, and if they do, why won’t they simply come out and provide proof of coverage?”

According to a recent BPC presentation, the Perseverance #1 well is closer to the Cuban mainland and islands than it is to any inhabited Bahamian islands being more than 90 miles from the nearest inhabited Bahamian island (Andros), and approximately 270 miles from Nassau.

"Perseverance #1 is not in a marine protected area, and is remote from regular Bahamian fishing and tourism industries," BPC said in a presentation earlier this month.

 Perseverance #1

The Perseverance #1 well will be located in water approximately 520 meters deep and is planned to be drilled to a target depth of 4,822 meters, but with the capability to be able to reach 5,600 meters, affording the ability to evaluate multiple reservoir horizons throughout the entire stratigraphic column below the Tertiary cover.  

The drilling is expected to take between 45 and 60 days. The well is targeting recoverable prospective resources of 0.7 billion barrels of oil, with an upside of 1.44 billion barrels.

The well has been designed specifically as an exploration well, with the sole objective of establishing the presence of hydrocarbons through a range of tests that will be conducted as the well is drilled.

Perseverance #1 has not been designed to ever operate as a production well, such that at the conclusion of the drilling program the well will be permanently sealed and then abandoned.



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