Over the next 12 to 18 months Jamaicans will be keeping their fingers crossed that the country’s first-ever oil and gas exploration 3-D seismic survey, just ended, will confirm indications of commercial quantities of the commodity on our south coast.
Conclusion of the 45-day survey by Tullow Oil on May 8 comes 63 years after Jamaica officially started the search for oil off the coast of Negril. Fortunately, the 3-D survey can draw from the previous 2-D surveys.
The more optimistic among us believe that if oil and gas are found, leading to self-sufficiency, they would represent a game-changer for the Jamaican economy, given their critical importance to the energy sector on which we spend US$1 billion a year.
The survey was part of a production-sharing agreement between the State-run Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) and Tullow Oil. Its findings will determine if Tullow elects to drill an exploratory well in the future, according to the PCJ.
Officials involved with the study have been at pains to urge caution, stressing that, while hopes were high, it was way too soon to conclude that oil and gas would be found in commercial quantities.
Over last weekend, PCJ gave some cause for optimism in a press statement in which it said: “Tullow’s decision to do the 3-D seismic survey shows that the data indicators are pointing in the right direction and we hope that the results of the post-survey data analysis will prompt them to move forward to the next phase.”
The cautious optimism of some is shared by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding who, while acknowledging that it is too early to start popping Champagne bottles, advised that the country should begin preparatory arrangements to deal with the inevitable challenges of finding oil.