Anglo-Australian multi-national BHP Billiton has made the ground-breaking decision to classify its holdings in Trinidad and Tobago as Tier One.

These assets are its share in block 2c, where the Kairi Canteen, Angostura and Aripo discoveries are delivering both oil and gas, 25.5% in the so-far-unproductive block 3a and its interest in nine deep water exploration blocks.

It's probably the latter that Dr. David Rainey, president of exploration at BHP Billiton Petroleum, had in mind when he bestowed the Tier One accolade on the company's Trinidad and Tobago activities in his address to the Energy Chamber's annual petroleum conference at the Hyatt Regency hotel in mid-January.

He emphasised that Tier One status for a location in which the company was engaged was not awarded lightly and, to achieve it, a country had to possess the following characteristics:

  • A petroleum system which has generated at least 5 million barrels of oil.
  • The opportunity for BHPBilliton to capture one billion of those barrels.
  • To achieve a production stream of at least 100,000 b/d.
  • The existence of multiple large prospects, greater than 250 million barrels.

The geology required to deliver such an outcome seems to exist in BHPBilliton's Trinidad and Tobago acreage. This includes “a world-class source rock, a large reservoir system and big simple structures”. To these should be added the opportunity to be an “early mover” and fiscal terms that “allow us to make a reasonable return on our exploration investment.”

The company's activity in relation to its nine deep water blocks so far has included “the largest 3D seismic acquisition programme ever conducted by an independent oil and gas company – more than 21,000 sq km, using some of the most sophisticated seismic vessels on the planet.”

This data has now been processed and the company is “well into the evaluation phase.”

BHP Billiton is “homing in on the prospects” with which it will open its drilling campaign later in 2016.

Its plan is “to drill two new play wildcats and possibly a second independent prospect in one of these plays.”

After that, it will take a break from drilling.

The break will give the company “a chance to learn from the data we have acquired.”

A name has already been given to the first well – Le Clerc.

Dr. Rainey describes Le Clerc as a “huge structure which we have been able to dissect in great detail on the basis of the seismic.”

Does BHP Billiton expect to find oil or gas?

Dr. Rainey gives an elliptical response: “we have heard from others in the industry that they believe this is a gas play. It may be. But we do have some encouraging evidence to suggest otherwise.”