Jamaica seeks help in Houston to tap its energy

Dec 17, 2004 01:00 AM

Jamaica has found signs of oil in 10 exploratory wells drilled into deep underground structures. Now it's come to Houston looking for oil companies willing to help the island nation, which depends heavily on tourism, bauxite and alumina, to become the world's next oil and natural gas producer. Hopeful Jamaican officials travelled to Houston promoting the nation's first formal license round, offering 22 offshore blocks and four on-shore blocks.
"There are plenty of reserves yet to be found -- exploration in new frontiers is now warranted," said Raymond Wright of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, reflecting on the world's supply dilemma.

Jamaica wants to be one of those new frontiers and for three years has been working with Great Britain's Jebco Seismic studying source rocks, seismic data and potential plays. The first round of competitive bidding opens Jan. 1 and closes July 15, to be followed by a public opening of the bids.
Up to this point Jamaica has been an importer of oil and gas because the 11 wells drilled in a period from the 1950s into the 1970s all turned out to be non-commercial, although 10 of them had oil or gas "shows." A study "has discovered what seems to be a previously unknown active petroleum system," according to Phillip Paulwell, Jamaica's minister of science, commerce and technology.

In addition to cores and logs gathered on the test wells, there are structures that may have billion-barrel potentials, the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica said.
The country was perhaps neglected in the worldwide search for oil because "nothing gushed out" of those early wells, said Chris Matchette-Downes of Jebco, the project manager. He suggested the wells were drilled in the wrong places because seismic data wasn't as good then and should have gone deeper into older formations.

One of Matchette-Downes' first tasks was sending an oil sample to a Houston company that does chemical fingerprints of oil, then matches them against samples in its library. He was surprised to find similarities with the Smackover formation that has been so productive along the US Gulf Coast.
Also, there is a striking geologic similarity between a basin off Jamaica and a natural gas field that's in the Philippines, Matchette-Downes said.

Source: Houston Chronicle
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