The Barbados Offshore Petroleum Programme (BOPP) was officially launched in 2007. The programme seeks to promote and facilitate the exploration and development of hydrocarbons within Barbados' offshore petroleum acreage through strategic partnerships with international oil and gas and geophysical service companies.

    In 1996, the Government of Barbados signed an offshore license and concession agreement with international oil company Conoco, granting it exclusive rights to explore the island’s frontier deep-water acreage in search of hydrocarbons.  Conoco conducted extensive geological and geophysical surveys and analyses that led to the drilling of the island’s lone offshore well, Sandy Lane 1/1Z, in 2002. 

    Sandy Lane 1/1Z was drilled approximately 130 kilometers south of Barbados to a total depth of 15,074 ft.  The well recorded gas shows, however, it was deemed a ‘dry hole’ after the post well prognosis showed that hydrocarbons had leaked from the structural trap after it had been breached.  Conoco subsequently ceased operations and relinquished the offshore acreage in 2004. However, the extensive geological and geophysical data collected by Conoco helped to improve the understanding of the island’s offshore geology and petroleum prospectivity and led to the conceptualisation of the Barbados Offshore Petroleum Programme (BOPP).

    The island’s offshore petroleum acreage is currently subdivided into 26 blocks – “Barbados Offshore Blocks”.  These blocks range between 799 square kilometers and 5000 square kilometers in size, with an average size of 2704 square kilometers. Two (2) of these blocks; Oistins and A-Moses, have been reserved for future development.  The names of the blocks were based on popular places of interest, local idioms and Barbadian phrases; paying homage to Barbados’ unique culture.

    Barbados has benefitted from the execution of geological and geophysical studies which have helped to improve the understanding of the island’s offshore acreage. These included 2D and 3D seismic surveys; gravity and magnetic surveys; seabed coring and sampling; and exploratory drilling (Geological and Geophysical Data).

    Between 1979 and 1981, Mobil acquired in excess of 4,000 kilometers of 2D seismic data offshore Barbados. 

    Between 1996 and 2002, Conoco conducted extensive geological and geophysical studies offshore Barbados, acquiring a total of 11,970 km of 2D seismic and 500 km2 of 3D seismic data across the island’s entire offshore acreage. This work culminated in the drilling of the island’s lone offshore well, Sandy Lane 1Z, in 2002.

    In 2007, geophysical service company, Wavefield Inseis acquired 8,030 kilometers of long-offset 2D seismic, along with gravity and magnetic data, to allow for deeper investigation and identification of major structural trends.

    Barbados’ offshore seismic data library was further expanded in 2013, with the acquisition of 6,876 kilometers of long-offset 2D seismic data by the Norwegian geophysical service company, MultiClient Geophysical.  This data was acquired over some of the most prospective areas of Barbados’ offshore acreage.

    In 2015, ION Geophysical reprocessed 9,000 kilometers of Conoco’s 2D seismic data, providing new pre-stack time-migrated and pre-stack depth-migrated data for licensing. 

    Also in 2015, Spectrum reprocessed the Wavefield Inseis 2D seismic dataset, generating uplifted pre-stack time-migrated and pre-stack depth-migrated data.

    In 2019, MultiClient Geophysical acquired an additional 16,367 kilometers of long-offset 2D, as part of its Caribbean Atlantic Margin Deep Imaging (CAMDI) survey. This survey extended across the prospective deep-water areas of Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.  The data were processed in both time and depth utilising the latest broadband technology.

    Immediately following the official launch of the BOPP in 2007, Government launched the inaugural “Barbados 2007 Offshore Licensing Round”, offering twenty-four (24) of the country’s twenty-six (26) offshore license areas (blocks) to the industry for competitive bidding under a concessionary royalty tax regime.  Bids were submitted for eleven (11) license areas and at the end of the licensing process, Australian exploration company, BHP Petroleum (BHP), emerged as the only successful bidder and was awarded two (2) blocks in the Barbados offshore –  Carlisle Bay and Bimshire. 

    In April 2015, the Government of Barbados and BHP signed the exploration licenses for the Carlisle Bay and Bimshire License Areas.  In order for the licences to become effective, BHP submitted for the approval of the Minister responsible for the Environment, Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) and Environmental Plans (EP) in respect of the two blocks. Following the submission of the mandatory EIAs and EPs, the documents were subjected to multiple reviews and revisions, with the Government of Barbados approving the documents and issuing the company with effective licences for the Carlisle Bay and Bimshire blocks on January 27, 2020. The issuance of the effective exploration licences marked the commencement of BHP’s exploration campaign offshore Barbados.

    The Government of Barbados launched its second offshore licensing round, the “Barbados 2015 Offshore Licensing Campaign”, in March 2015.  Under this campaign, six (6) companies submitted prequalification applications, which were assessed based on predefined legal; technical; financial; health, safety, security, and environment (HSSE); and local content criteria.  Three (3) companies met the prequalification standard, with Spanish international oil company, Repsol S.A. (Repsol), submitting the only successful bid.  Repsol was subsequently awarded the Black Belly block in May 2016. 

    The Government of Barbados is seeking to launch a new licensing round in Q4 2020 in an effort to license additional offshore blocks to interested oil and gas companies.  More information on well as the upcoming licensing round can be found at “Barbados 2020 Offshore Licensing Round”.

    Barbados’ offshore petroleum acreage space is bounded by its Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) to the east and the established maritime boundaries with France (i.e. Martinique) to the north-west, St Lucia and St Vincent & the Grenadines to the west and the Republics of Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana to the south. 

    In February 2020, the Government of Barbados signed an Unitisation Treaty with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, establishing a framework of cooperation for the joint exploration, development and production of oil & gas resources that may extend across their shared maritime boundary.

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