Photo: The Stena IceMAX drillship is drilling Bahamas Petroleum Company's well; Source: Stena Drilling

Court allows BPC to keep drilling the Bahamas well

A court has ruled that Bahamas Petroleum Company is allowed to continue drilling operations on its Perseverance #1 well off the Bahamas despite attempts by environmental groups to stop the drilling.

BPC said on Wednesday that the Honourable Justice Petra Hanna-Weekes has provided her ruling on various matters related to a court process through which a group of environmental activists have been trying to stop BPC from drilling the Perseverance #1 well.

Environmental activists raised concerns with a Bahamas court related to Bahamas Petroleum Company’s plans to drill the Perseverance #1 well back in December 2020.

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Despite these objections, BPC started drilling its eagerly anticipated Perseverance #1 well, using the Stena IceMAX drillship, on 20 December 2020.

An application to the Supreme Court of the Bahamas for leave to apply for a Judicial Review, brought against the Government of The Bahamas in respect of the issue to BPC (in February 2020) of an Environmental Authorisation for drilling of the Perseverance #1 well, was refused ‘on the papers’ by the Court on Thursday, 24 December 2020.

Accordingly, a request for a stay order (halt) to BPC’s drilling activities was refused at that hearing.

However, the applicants have made a renewed application for Judicial Review in respect of the Environmental Authorisation and, on 26 December 2020, the Court advised that there would be an oral hearing of the renewed application on 29 December 2020.

The hearing was then postponed for 30 December. At this hearing, oral arguments were heard addressing various matters and the Court then reserved judgment.

In the court’s ruling on Wednesday, the Honourable Justice Petra Hanna-Weekes has refused to grant any orders that would affect BPC’s current operations. This means that the drilling of Perseverance #1 will continue.

Furthermore, the application from environmentalists against the Government of The Bahamas to seek leave to bring judicial review proceedings in respect of various decisions taken by the Government in relation to BPC’s licences in The Bahamas has been granted and a timetable for further hearings has been established.

Namely, a hearing to determine if BPC should be formally added as a party to the action will be held on 14 January 2021.

At this hearing, the Honourable Justice Petra Hanna-Weekes will also provide further directions relating to the future hearings.

A further hearing to determine the Government’s request for security for costs against the applicants will be heard on 22 January 2021; and thereafter, a hearing in relation to the substantive judicial review will be held either in mid-February 2021 or during March 2021, depending on the availability of the Court and the parties, with a ruling on the substantive application to follow at some point thereafter.

BPC said that the well remains on track to take 45 – 60 days from the beginning to complete, at which time BPC will be in a position to inform of the outcome of the well.

Simon Potter, CEO of BPC, said: “Today’s Court ruling means that the drilling of Perseverance #1 will continue, in accordance with our licences obligations, and consistent with the permits issued to the company by the Government of The Bahamas“.

Potter continued: “Those drilling operations, which have been underway since 20 December 2020, have the well on track to provide results within the 45 – 60 days period the company has consistently advised.

“It is thus clear now that the applicants have failed in their last-minute attempt to interrupt the drilling of Perseverance #1 and the Government’s legitimate assessment of hydrocarbon resource potential in its southern seas. This is a very positive outcome for the completion of the Perseverance #1 well”.