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Whatever happened to petroleum?

oil tanker

Posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2022. 8:25 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: All the talk about conservation and protection of the natural environment aside, Belize hasn’t quite given up on petroleum as a source of critical revenue.

In its quarterly bulletin issued on Tuesday, the Geology and Petroleum Department, under the Ministry of Natural Resources, offered updates on where Belize’s supply of crude is going, how soon we may find more, and what else it is doing on the petroleum front.

Belize continues to export crude oil from the Spanish Lookout area, first located in the mid-2000s and it is mostly going to the U.S. Gulf Coast and more recently to Guatemala. Its high quality (40-degree API sweet in industry parlance) makes it desired for use in factories. Some is also purchased locally from suppliers Belize Natural Energy Limited (BNE) for local factories to reduce their electricity bills.

Alas, the solution of homemade refined gasoline, diesel and other needed fuels is not on the horizon any time soon as the Department explains: “Belizean crude is of extremely high quality and while it is being used as a Bunker C fuel oil replacement with some minor processing it is not used as a fuel source for gasoline, diesel or other fuels within Belize. The creation of fuels such as gasoline and diesel requires a specific refining process that requires a minimum volume of oil as well as a market that can utilize a significant portion of the refined products. The volume of production within [the] country is not enough to supply a refinery.”

But crude oil from Belize is being used internationally to make petrochemicals, plastics, refined fuel and provide electricity, to name a few. “As exploration in Belize progresses, new discoveries can open more opportunities for local crude exploitation,” the Department says.

And speaking of exploitation, at least one familiar name is still in the business of exploring for petroleum in Belize. The Department says exploration companies, such as FCRL Belize Ltd. and U.S. Capital Belize, have put forward programs for extensive data analysis, seismic programs and a drilling and testing campaign for a known discovery (for FCRL Belize Ltd) and identified plays (potential traps identified from seismic surveys for U.S. Capital Belize Ltd). It is not clear whether the latter may be in the Toledo District, where Maya villages have long struggled for communal land rights and the right to be informed and to consent to activities of strangers in their territory.

Meanwhile, the Government and BNE are working closely together for the enhancement of production from the Spanish Lookout and Never Delay Oilfield with leaner operations (more economical) and with targeted interventions.

In other department news, it was a participant in the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Conference in Cartagena, Colombia, in April, presenting research on modelling hydrocarbon expulsion, migration and timing in the Corozal Basin and “Emerging Energy and Exploration Opportunities in Belize.” It is also conducting further research and plans to present the paper on the Corozal Basin at next year’s conference.


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