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BHP Billiton pushes on in the Caribbean

Enough faith might have been shown in a number of blocks that might just generate a few more years of extraction

SLUMPING oil prices do not appear to have put a damper on offshore exploration activity in Trinidad and Tobago. Anglo/Australian multinational BHP Billiton is confidently going ahead with its $1bn deep-water exploratory drilling programme in the seven blocks it was awarded in 2012 and 2013 under production-sharing contracts with the ministry of energy and energy industries (MEEI) and the two held by BP into which it subsequently farmed and assumed operatorship. The blocks, numbers 3, 5, 6, 7, 14, 23a, 23b, 28 and 29, are located in the Atlantic ocean off the east coast.

“Not every block has a well commitment,” says Vincent Anthony Pereira, head of BHP Billiton’s Trinidad and Tobago business. “Some blocks are pure seismic. If we get very excited about what we see on seismic, we could move very quickly to the next phase, which could involve drilling a well.” The mix of obligations should mitigate the company’s risk.

That 3D seismic survey, covering 20,199 square km, was the largest ever conducted by an international oil company at the time. BHP Billiton will spud its first well later this year and Pereira is full of optimism.

Filling barrels

MEEI has estimated that oil resources in the blocks could total between 1.2bn-6.6bn barrels of oil and between 11.4 trillion and 37.8 trillion cubic feet of gas.

BHP Billiton is a little less optimistic than that, though Pereira concedes that to make the deep-water play pay a “significant volume” will need to be found. This means “not 50m barrels of oil but hundreds of millions of barrels, not 100bn cf of gas but several trillion cfs of gas. This is even more necessary when you consider that deep-water is the last frontier area for Trinidad and Tobago.”

But BHP Billiton, which already produces around 7,700 barrels a day from another block, 2C, off the north east coast, of which it is part-owner and operator, is very keen on Trinidad and Tobago’s offshore potential. Without yet drilling a well in the deep water, the firm’s chief geoscientist, David Rainey, has declared the country to be a “tier-1 location” for BHP Billiton.

That means there’s promise, and “long-life, low-cost expandable upstream assets, a petroleum system that has generated at least 5m barrels of oil, the opportunity for BHP Billiton to capture a billion of those barrels and to grow a production stream of at least 100,000 b/d.”

That prognosis bodes well for the likelihood of a discovery in the deep water, perhaps Trinidad and Tobago’s last hydrocarbon frontier.

This article is part of an in-depth series on offshore production. Next article: Going off script in the Gulf of Mexico.

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