The government began to debate the suite of legislation that introduces this country’s Environmental Protection and Planning Act yesterday, even as the Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) submitted a release revealing that it has entered into a master service agreement (MSA) with Baker Hughes for well-drilling equipment to be used to spud an exploratory oil well in the southern Bahamas by the end of March 2020.
“Further and pursuant to the MSA entered into, BPC has now also placed a first purchase order with Baker Hughes, for a wellhead set, a contingency well head set and 36-inch conductor casing,” the release stated.
“The wellhead set is being manufactured to order for BPC’s intended well and delivery is expected in a time frame consistent with the current drilling schedule.”
BPC Chief Executive Officer Simon Potter said in the release that the agreement with Baker Hughes is a significant milestone for the company.
“In ordering these high-value, critical-path, long-lead items, along with the other multiple work streams ongoing, management is taking demonstrative steps to ensure we remain on track for drilling to commence as per our previously announced drill schedule,” Potter said.
Minister of Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira told reporters yesterday that the suite of environmental legislation debated in the House yesterday ensures that numerous considerations will be given to the protection of the environment in the case of high-risk activities like oil drilling.
“We tabled in the House of Assembly and read for a second time for debate today, the environmental suite of legislation which introduces the Environmental Protection and Planning Act, which is the equivalent of our Environmental Protection Act,” Ferreira said.
“It introduces a Department of Environment Planning and Protection, which will be charged with enforcing environmental regulations and it allows for the minister to design any number of regulations into law that pertain to, for example, oil spills and the kind of oil drilling that you’re foreshadowing.
“Every single administration has seen fit to protect the environment in some way shape or form, every single administration that has been in power. So what we’re really seeing here is a bipartisan effort on the part of successive governments to protect the environment.”
When asked what conversations government has been having with BPC since it announced its goal of drilling an exploratory oil well in March, Ferreira would say only: “That’s their own internal deadline. I’m sure they’ll have reasons they arrived at. I can’t comment on that.”
BPC will still have to receive the green light on the environmental front from the government in order to begin its drilling.
And while the government has been rather mum on the issue, BPC continues to move full steam ahead, having secured enough funding last month to carry out its first exploratory well and publicly declaring every step of its process along the way.
“In August 2019, following extensive technical discussions and mutual due diligence, BPC received proposals, including pricing, for a range of well-related equipment, including wellheads and tubulars, for the intended drilling 2020 campaign,” BPC’s release stated.
“At that time, and as previously announced, BPC issued a notice of award to Baker Hughes GE for provision of that equipment, as a precursor step to a detailed contract as is customary in the industry.
“As contemplated and following a further period of negotiation and collaborative work, BPC has now entered into a master services agreement with Baker Hughes GE for the provision of specified equipment.”
Environmentalists and environmental groups continue to speak out against the prospect of oil exploration in The Bahamas.