By Benjamin Flowers Staff Reporter
Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced this week that some 50 million barrels of thick crude oil have been found in Orange Walk. However more testing needs to be done to determine if it can be extracted commercially.
He said that because of the complexity of the rock formation in the area, Maranco Energy Belize Limited will not be able to determine its commercial value without further testing and without financial and technical assistance from abroad.
Barrow, speaking at the end of the National Budget Debate, said that the company reported the test results of South Canal Bank #3 exploration well on Monday.
He added that the test results determined that the oil is located at between 4009 and 4026 feet deep under the surface, with a size of between 2500 to 3500 acres.
Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Energy, Dr. Colin Young, explained that Maranco cannot determine if the find has commercial value without testing exactly how much oil the rocks can hold (porosity), and the space available between the rocks for the oil to pass through (permeability).
“I want to be very clear. Oil in the ground does not [automatically] translate to recoverable oil,” Young stressed.
He added that commerciality is not a matter of how many millions of barrels exist, but rather if the rock formation would allow for extraction without it being too expensive.
The oil quality, Young explained, has API (American Petroleum Industry) gravity of 16, which means that the oil is thick and heavy, making it more difficult to extract. This is in contrast with the oil found in Belize Natural Energy’s Spanish lookout fields which had an API gravity of 32, referred to as light sweet crude.
If Maranco’s find is commercial it will be the first company to strike oil since BNE struck oil in 2005. BNE also struck oil in 2007 at its well in Never Delay.
The find would aid Belize’s ailing oil industry which has been in steady decline for the past several years according to the Statistical Institute of Belize.
SIB’s 2013 report showed that crude oil production fell by as much as 23 percent when compared to 2012.
Crude oil is Belize’s largest export product, representing some 27 percent of domestic exports, seconded by citrus which represents 20 percent.
The data also showed a drop in annual oil production from 1.6 million barrels in 2009, to 792,000 in 2013.
Of the six oil companies with oil concessions in Belize two are currently inactive. The other companies are all planning seismic-testing activity, scheduled for various times throughout the year.
BNE’s production sharing agreement was never renewed and its concession area was given over to Pacific Rubialis.