Spanish oil giant Repsol has been awarded the Black Belly offshore block for exploration. The block is located off of Barbados’ northwest coast and is a fairly sizable 2,479 square km especially when compared with the Barbados land mass of about 431 square km. 

Repsol has operations in over 40 countries and already has established presence in the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region including in Trinidad, Guyana, Venezuela, Brazil and Colombia. 

According to an article in the Barbados Advocate in May, Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart said that the award of the block represents another “bold step” in Barbados’ journey toward realising its offshore petroleum potential. The prime minister also said that the opportunity presented by this partnership is encouraging and timely, given the harsh and wide-reaching constraints that have been placed on the oil and gas industry as a result of the current low oil price environment. 

He added that the “blossoming partnership” between Barbados and Repsol will send a clear message to the industry that Barbados remains committed to the development of its offshore petroleum sector. Stuart also said, “We are pleased that Repsol has ranked Barbados, and by extension, the greater Caribbean/South American region, as one of its core development and investment areas. It is our firm belief that the company’s excellent track record, in relation to the exploration, development and production of oil and gas resources, as well as its knowledge of and experience in the region, makes it an ideal partner to assist the country in maximising its offshore petroleum potential.” 

The award of the exploration license in the Black Belly block was part of the 2015 licensing campaign which came to a close on December 30th 2015. It included seven offshore blocks on the shelf and deepwater areas of the North Caribbean Deformed belt. Repsol was one of three pre-qualified applicants. The others included BHP Billiton and a consortium of Antilles Oil and Gas and Polarcus DMCC. 

Last year, BHP Billiton signed two offshore licenses with the government of Barbados for the Carlisle Bay and Bimshire blocks. Those blocks are approximately 40 kilometres southeast of the island nation, total about 5,000 square kilometres and are located in waters ranging from approximately 1,200 to 2,000 metres in depth. 

According to Niall McCormack, BHP Billiton Vice President Exploration, “Signing the exploration licenses marks our first steps into exploration in Barbadian waters” and, “based on what we know about the geological trend in the area, we are optimistic about our chances of discovering hydrocarbons within these blocks.”