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Bahamas Oil Drilling Comes Up Short, Company Says

Environmentalists say Bahamas Petroleum did not fully acknowledge the potential damage from drilling.
Arvind Vallabh / 500px/Getty Images/500px

Bahamas Petroleum reported Monday that exploratory drilling 90 miles west of Andros Island had found too little oil to be commercially viable.

Controversial oil exploration in the Bahamas has turned up too little oil to be commercially viable, according to a report Monday by Bahamas Petroleum.

In its statement to investors, Bahamas Petroleum said an exploratory well 90 miles west of Andros, and about 41 miles northeast of Cuba, had been capped after reaching nearly 13,000 feet.

The drilling found some oil, but not enough to support a commercial operation. The company had hoped to produce at least 770 million barrels of oil and as much as 1.4 billion barrels.

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The drilling started in December and drew sharp opposition from conservationists in the Bahamas and Florida who worried about the damage from potential spills.

“It’s very dangerous to drill in that area, especially when you consider that tourism is based on beautiful white sandy beaches, coral, and lots of fish,” said marine biologist Mitchell Roffer, a marine biologist who worked on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and was hired by the Bonefish Tarpon Trust to examine the drilling work.

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Bahamas Petroleum
Drilling at the B-North location found too little oil to support commercial operations. The company said Monday it will look at findings from the drilling over the next few weeks to determine its next step. The company holds a total of five licenses covering about 4 million acres.

If a spill were to happen, Roffer said currents could transport the oil into Cuban waters in a matter of hours and to Florida waters within a day.

“If they were ready for it and they had several boats with booms ready to go, then they could pick it up. But, you know, in the Gulf of Mexico, we had the same thing,” he said. “And the few boats that were there initially could do nothing to stop the oil from hitting the coastline in Mississippi and Alabama and Louisiana.”

The company holds five licenses to drill in about 4 million acres east of Andros Island and one at the north end of the islands. The company says oil prospects in the islands are “underexplored” with only five historic wells, which all found oil.

Roffer said historically the area has not produced much oil.

“Cubans tried it and they didn't come up with oil either. I don't remember if it was the right kind of oil, mature oil or just not enough. So they stopped drilling there,” he said. “It's the same sort of geological formation over there.

In its statement to investors, Bahamas Petroleum says it will evaluate all the findings from the drilling in the coming weeks to determine its next steps.

You can read more stories like this one by signing up for our environment text letter. Just text “enviro news” to 786-677-0767 and we’ll send you a roundup of stories like this — and more — every Wednesday.

Jenny Staletovich has been a journalist working in Florida for nearly 20 years.