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Jun 7, 2005

Oil drilling continues; G.O.B. optimistic

Story PictureOn Yesterday’s broadcast we broke the news of a drilling rig searching for petroleum in the area of Spanish Lookout. Today News Five’s Patrick Jones returned to the site where the project’s directors were joined by officials from Government. As the bit prepares to once more bite through the Cayo clay, Jones reports that optimism remains high.

Patrick Jones, Reporting
For residents of Spanish Lookout, life continues as per normal. But in the middle of the farming community, a group of explorers have smelled petroleum and are frantically digging in the ground, trying to find this Twenty-first Century gold they believe awaits them beneath the surface.

Paul Marriott, Managing Director, P.R. Marriott
?Things are going extremely well, faster than we anticipated. We actually mobilised a week yesterday. The boat landed in Belize City [and] we moved all the equipment inland. We have tremendous help from the local people and the service contractors, the haulage people, the crane companies, everybody has been superb, which has allowed us to progress in the nature that we have progressed. And we are now already at six hundred feet. We are expecting to be at a thousand feet by lunch time tomorrow, and by early next week we should be seeing some oil show.?

Patrick Jones
?Oil exploration is nothing new to Belize. Over the last half a century no less than fifty wells–this is number fifty one–have been drilled into different parts of the Belizean terrain. And while traces of the greasy gold have seeped through several of the digs, no one has yet gone into the production phase. The principals of Belize Natural Energy however, are optimistic that they?ve found the proverbial needle in the haystack.?

Sheila McCaffrey, one of the directors of B.N.E., the local company that is prospecting for oil in western Belize, says hope is eternal.

Sheila McCaffrey, Director, Belize Natural Energy
?None of us would be here unless we thought we could do something positive for the country. Like everyone in the world, we have choices about where we could spend our dollars, spend our expertise, and develop oil fields. Many people that are here have a genuine and caring interest for this country and have worked here for many, many years. And we are trying our very best to do it. If it can be done, it will be done this time, there is no doubt about that. And we are not saying yet that we are the saviour to come in and do it, to save the county economically, but we are saying we are going to give it our very best.?

Drilling in Spanish Lookout started a week ago, and after several hundred feet into the ground, the rig is yet to break through the clay formation. Managing Director of P.R. Marriott, the U.K. company that is drilling, says that is a good sign.

Paul Marriott
?The previous fifty wells have been drilled in areas where it was, some of them were quite obviously they were just wildcat wells. The technology was not available to determine the actual drill location like we?ve got the advantage of doing. And never before, this is the first time in Belize that a cap and an anticline combined has been drilled. We are the first people to drill it. And this is very exciting.?

In fact, there is so much excitement over this project that even G.O.B. has gotten into the hype. Minister of Natural Resources Johnny Briceño says that while no petroleum has been pulled up yet, a positive outcome would be beneficial to the entire nation. And G.O.B. is already seeing green.

Johnny Briceño, Minister of Natural Resources
?We are going to benefit in many ways. First of all, the amount of foreign currency that would be bringing into the country, the royalties that we are going to be collecting. The government is going to be collecting seven and a half percent of the royalties would remain for the Government of Belize. There is also a production sharing agreement whereby it depends on the level of layers. You have like from zero to twenty-five thousand barrels, twenty-five thousand barrels to fifty thousand barrels, etcetera, where a certain percentage remains for the government. So the government is going to be getting from both ends.?

That?s a big assumption, considering nobody?s seen even a drop of grease from the well. But that minor matter doesn?t seem to bother the project geologist.

Jean Cornec, Project Geologist
?We have some good hopes of finding natural gas. The reason why I am saying that is that Shell drilled a well across the border in Melchor back in the 50?s that had a fairly good show of natural gas and we are going to be drilling through the same layers and more or less at the same depth. So we have good hopes.?

Patrick Jones
?You are confident you are going to find something underneath here.?

Jean Cornec
?I am confident we are going to find something. I don?t know how economic it?s going to be. It all boils down to economics.?

The operation employs twenty-five men working in two shifts around the clock. The drilling is monitored by computers from a nearby station, to make sure everything stays on track. G.O.B.?s Inspector of Petroleum Andre Cho shares in the excitement of the find.

Andre Cho, Inspector of Petroleum
?We have strong feeling that yes there is petroleum beneath us and we just have to drill and confirm that for sure.?

Patrick Jones
?How much petroleum could be beneath us here??

Andre Cho, Inspector of Petroleum
?Well it all depends on the thickness of the reservoir rock, which would be a limestone rock and the porosity of the rock. Because for a rock to produce petroleum commercially it has to be very porous and it has to be very permeable.?

And even with all those factors still up in the air, McCaffrey says they have come too far now to give up.

Sheila McCaffrey
?There is no secret in saying that there is oil here. I think the secret is to get it into economic production. I think the real bonus would be to find natural gas. Natural gas would be tremendously important for the generation of electricity and the generation of natural energy here in Belize. And we?d all like to think, fast forward a year from now, two years from now and dream about Belize dollar gas prices in the country. We don?t really have that much control over that. What we have to do is find it in economy quantities, put it into production and then work with what we have to be able to bring that energy cost down for the country.?

While most people involved with the operation are cautiously optimistic about the outcome of this latest oil expedition, Cho says he is confident that the ground beneath Spanish Lookout will yield something beneficial to the local economy.

Andre Cho
?Well our guess, and when I say our, it?s government and the company because remember this is a partnership, our guess is that we will probably be producing and hopefully we are producing anywhere from one thousand barrels to maybe five thousand barrels per day for the field. Again there won?t be only one well. When petroleum is found, the field has to be defined meaning, over what distance the field is distributed laterally.?

Jean Cornec
?Well we could have some indication the next couple of weeks. But then we?ll need to do some testing. Sometimes you see oil under the microscope in the little holes that are in the rock and that raises everybody?s expectations. But then when you go into testing there might be some problems that are not expected. So we have to be cautions. But I believe within the next six weeks we?ll know whether we?re up to something or not.?

And while we wait for the test results to come in, should Belizeans get their hopes up?

Andre Cho
?Well I am excited. I guess everyone else could take it with a grain of salt, noh. (Laughs) But, yes, we are excited. So I would think Belize should look forward to something exciting soon because it will be very useful and beneficial to the country.?

Patrick Jones, for News Five.

The well has been named Michael Usher Number One, in memory of the veteran Belizean oil industry contractor who died in 2004.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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