BPC faces disruption by environmental activists over Bahamas well

Environmental activists have raised concerns with a Bahamas court related to Bahamas Petroleum Company’s plans to drill the Perseverance #1 well located offshore the Bahamas. BPC believes the objections are without merit and plans to oppose the application.

Stena IceMAX drillship - Bahamas Petroleum Company
Stena IceMAX drillship; Source: Bahamas Petroleum Company

BPC on Thursday noted 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.

The Perseverance #1 well is expected to spud imminently, using the Stena IceMAX drillship.

BPC has encountered several difficulties while preparing to drill the well, including delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Back in November 2020, BPC raised the cost estimates for the drilling operation of its Perseverance #1 well due to Covid-19 mitigation measures.

In an update on Thursday, BPC said that 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.

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

Given that BPC’s drilling operations are scheduled to start before the end of 2020, and considerable work has already started for those operations, BPC 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.

Simon Potter, CEO of BPC, 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.

Potter emphasized that the company’s drilling plans had been public knowledge for almost a decade, noting that the Government provided Environmental Authorisation in February 2020, following an extensive program of work.

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To remind, BPC submitted an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to the Ministry in 2012. The EA application was submitted to the Ministry for review and consideration by the BEST Commission on behalf of the Ministry in April 2018.

Potter continued: “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 people of The Bahamas have a right to know if this resource is there for them and for future generations of Bahamians”.

Potter also added: “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.

Potter reiterated that, in gaining its Environmental Authorisation, BPC adhered to all applicable Bahamian laws, and adhered to all applicable guidelines, international standards, and best practices.