Features — 01 April 2011 — by Adele Ramos - adelescribe@gmail.com
The Barrow administration has confirmed its decision to award a petroleum contract to Maranco Limited, a company affiliated with PR Marriott Drilling of the UK, following a three-week grace period between the proposal by Cabinet and the deadline for objections.
  
Maranco’s parent company in Nevis had been a shareholder of Belize Natural Energy (BNE), still the only producing oil company in Belize.
  
Maranco, which has an office at Iguana Creek in Cayo, is well known in Belize, since it had done drilling for BNE in Spanish Lookout before relations went sour, most recently leading to litigation in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.
  
Although it has reaffirmed its interest in Belize, Maranco wants out of BNE, and the court has ordered BNE director Tony Quinn to purchase Maranco’s shares in the company.
  
The approval of Cabinet, however, has raised objections from certain quarters. Amandala understands that the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage objected on Tuesday, telling Prime Minister Dean Barrow that a portion of the contract area includes the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, a private protected area owned by Programme for Belize.
  
The Coalition is campaigning for signatures to trigger a referendum that will allow Belizeans to definitively say whether they are for or against drilling in offshore Belize and/or protected areas.
  
Although it did make its objection to the Maranco contract known, the Coalition has indicated to the government that it is unable to speak of the financial and technical qualifications of the company, because Government officials told them that the documents could not be released to them. They were, however, informed verbally of Maranco’s work plan.
  
Apart from the objection from the Coalition, Government also received objections from two companies: Belize Natural Energy, and the Irish-owned Cara Energy Ltd., which had both put in bids for the same Orange Walk concession.
  
In a press release dated Tuesday, March 29, Cabinet announced that it had made a final decision that it will award the production sharing agreement (PSA) for vacant petroleum exploration blocks in the northwestern Orange Walk District to Maranco Ltd.
  
That area includes Sylvestre Camp, Indian Creek, Indian Church, San Carlos and August Pine Ridge.
  
Maranco’s concession lies adjacent to five others belonging to Perenco (which has the concession over Orange Walk Town), Blue Creek Exploration, Belgeo Limited, BNE and Northern Spirit.
  
Amandala understands that the Maranco contract calls for a 10% royalty on crude oil and natural gas, plus production sharing revenues of 15% to 40% based on production ranging from 0 – 5,000 barrels of oil a day to more than 30,000 barrels a day.
  
The concession area includes Gallon Jug, which the government has said has promising petroleum potential.
  
Drilling of the first well could commence within two years.

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