Jamaica to Resume Oil Exploration

Twenty years after the last exploration activities in Jamaica, the country is ready to make another try at oil exploration. The island country will be receiving help from Venezuela and Ecuador, according to Phillip Paulwell Jamaica's Energy Minister. "Having reviewed information dating over the past 20 years, we have decided that it is worth pursuing, based on our finding so far," Paulwell told the press. "Ecuador and Venezuela have offered technical support and guidance, and based on the advice given, the ministry will vigorously pursue exploration efforts using private sector investments." He declined to name any oil companies that might be interesting in bidding on acreage or which ares off the island's coast would be open for bidding.

Proposals are soon to be reviewed by the National Contracts Committee (NCC) and it was possible that activity could start during this fiscal year, Paulwell said.

During 1981/82 a joint venture between Union Texas and Agip drilled an exploratory well in Pedro Banks, 50 miles off the island's south coast, which the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) had divided into five blocks to be auctioned as concessions. Although Jamaican officials at the time claimed that the Union Texas/Agip had been encouraged by their finding in their Arawak block, the consortium packed up without exercising its option over its second block, called Bonito.

The Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica drilled three onshore wells in the early 1980s on the island's northwest coast in Westmoreland, however, no commercial hydrocarbons were found. Jamaica had financed its initial hydrocarbon mapping with funding and technical help from the Norwegian Government and PetroCanada. In the mid-1980s, the Norwegians financed further seismic and geological mapping in the west, north and eastern sections of Jamaica, but no further exploration took place. "Many years ago, Jamaica conducted a tremendous amount of research but stopped, primarily because of the cost of doing such exploration," Paulwell said.

The minister's confirmation of the country's renewed interest in oil and gas exploration came on his return from trips last week to Venezuela and Ecuador to firm up agreements for oil supplies from these countries.