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LETTER OF THE DAY - Forge ahead with oil exploration

Published:Sunday | September 30, 2012 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

The editorial in the edition of your newspaper, published on Friday, September 28, raised a number of issues about Jamaica's oil and gas exploration efforts.

While you recounted the experience of our neighbours in Cuba, and intimated that their lack of success - thus far - should serve as a warning to Jamaica, the scenario would have benefited from contextualisation.

The fact is, oil exploration is still a new area for us, and, therefore, the wider public may not necessarily be familiar with the rudiments of this aspect of the global energy industry.

To put the Cuban experience in context, major corporations involved in exploration have been known to drill as many as 100 wells before finding a block that can produce oil in commercial quantities. Against that background, the situation in Cuba, where so far three wells have yielded less-than-desirable results, would not necessarily be a deterrent to future investors.

In Jamaica, there are encouraging signs from scientific research that we have carried out to date. Acquisition of the seismic data, which inform exploration, is a tremendously expensive undertaking; yet, we have managed to obtain a considerable amount of critical information at no cost to the country because of partnership agreements.

That fact notwithstanding, because of the nature of geology, the only way to actually answer the question of whether Jamaica has oil or gas in commercial quantities is to drill. To do this, we will, of course, need to attract investment from entities with the extensive resources required to make the necessary investment.

The hunt for oil and gas is, by no means, a lofty exercise, but rather a purposeful drive to find sustainable solutions to our country's critical energy challenges. At present, Jamaica is almost completely dependent on imported oil for energy - a situation that currently costs us well over US$2 billion every year.

Detrimental effects

The failure to address this circumstance in short order will have detrimental effects on our economy.

In light of this, now is not the time to retreat from oil exploration. On the contrary, the positive indicators from scientific surveys should serve to strenuously emphasise that this is the time to forge ahead, particularly in light of our need to end our costly dependence on foreign oil.

As the agency tasked with addressing the country's energy needs, it is the duty of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica to vigorously promote Jamaica's potential as an oil producer and to aggressively seek business alliances that will result in the full exploitation of this potential for our economic and social development.

As is often the case when countries venture into uncharted territory, the initial discourse can be coloured by limited or even incorrect information. We would, therefore, welcome the opportunity to broaden the dialogue on these matters.

MARIO ANDERSON (PhD)

Group Managing Director

PCJ