BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Apr. 16, 2015–For about a year, US Capital Energy has been exploring for crude oil in the Sarstoon Temash National Park in Toledo, southern Belize, but today the company will be sending back the coiled tubing equipment it had imported from the US some weeks ago to do further probing at its first well site inside the national park.
US Capital Energy’s country representative, Alistair King, told Amandala that the decision to abandon the well was made because high levels of hydrogen sulfide were being encountered. Breathing very high concentrations of the gas, which has a pungent rotten-egg smell, can lead to death, but in smaller concentrations, it could lead to varying health effects, which include loss of smell, conjunctivitis and lung disease.
According to King, while drilling the well, the company saw positive signs that oil is there, and they also encountered methane and butane. He told us, though, that despite these encouraging signs, the discovery of high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide forced them to plug and abandon the well – a procedure which he said has been approved by the Government.
King told us that they meet with Government officials later this month, to discuss the project, and after that investors will decide whether they will pursue drilling a second well.
King said that a second hole could be drilled 15 feet away from the first well, on the same drill pad, located inside the park. He said that the information gathered from the drilling of the first well could help make drilling of the second well more effective.
We asked how much the project investment has been to date. King told us that the investment in the first well has been roughly US$22 million, and he estimates that US Capital has so far spent US$40 million on oil exploration activities, including preliminary work such as seismic testing in southern Belize.
Due to the company’s decision to suspend drilling operations, the company’s workforce has been reduced from about 40 persons to a skeleton staff of about 10, King indicated.
Last month, King told Amandala that US Capital had drilled down to 54 feet short of 10,000 feet and had found natural gas and shows of oil. He had also said that the newly imported coiled tubing equipment would have permitted them to drill further and commence extraction for testing, to determine whether the natural gas found was an isolated air pocket, or whether it is an indication of a substantial crude oil deposit further down in the well. Tankers were also being readied for crude export.
The hydrogen sulfide fumes from the drill site have forced the abandonment of those plans.