Potter allays environmental concerns

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Jeffrey Todd
NG Business Editor

As the incoming CEO of the Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC), Simon Potter’s objective is simple – with a bit of luck, turn The Bahamas into the world’s latest oil-producing provence.

In a country dependent on tourism, the question remains whether oil and pristine beaches can be whispered in the same sentence.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][file_cta file_picker=”1032″ docinfo=”download full article”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Potter, with his unblemished environmental record from Australia to the Arctic, believes it can.

“Across many countries I have never had a significant incident in my field,” he told Guardian Business from Singapore.

“I have always worked hard to set environmental standards.”

Back in September, when BPC announced the hiring of Potter, the company cited his breadth of experience and clean record as the dominant reasons for his appointment.

Indeed, the environmental issue has remained one of the fundamental stumbling blocks to oil drilling in The Bahamas, with many politicians remaining skeptical about the dangers to the natural world.

In August, Paul Gucwa, the chief operating officer, extended the olive branch to Earl Deveaux, the Minister of the Environment, saying he was “absolutely right” about concerns regarding oil drilling.

Deveaux has been an outspoken critic of the proposed industry in The Bahamas, consistently stressing the need for exhaustive studies impact reports before permitting any kind of exploration.

Potter feels, at this stage in the game, the entire issue must be taken in context.

“First, we don’t know if there is any oil there,” he pointed out. “And second, one only has to look to Cuban waters and the activities there. So in terms of the overall, incremental risk, I would argue another well in the area, if done professionally, properly managed.”

Top of his agenda, he added, is preventing environmental incidents and containment.

His comments are well timed, as BPC prepares to submit its Environmental Impact Report to the government. Guardian Business reported late last month that the first draft is complete and undergoing a few minor revisions.

Potter has met challenging environmental conditions in the past. In addition to his work in Indonesia, Africa and Papua New Guinea, the former Dart and British Petroleum executive also worked in Russia, which he described as “not like the West”.

“You can imagine some of the environmental standards and the standards of equipment,” he explained.

“We worked very hard during that period to improve and bring awareness to the issues when it comes to the environment. It was a very difficult and polluted landscape.”

With this dedication in mind, when Potter arrives in The Bahamas later this month, he doesn’t intend on making it a quick, one-time trip.

He told Guardian Business that the assets are in The Bahamas and he anticipates spending “quite a big amount of time” here. “I have to split my time to servicing the investors in the UK and Europe, as well as the technical guys who are spread through the mainland US. I’m anticipating spending around a week in each place and rotating.” As a message to investors, Potter emphasized that with every step they take, the risk is mitigated. Thus far, while the company analyzes the 3D seismic data, all signs have been positive that oil lurks under the surface. But the only way to really know, is to start drilling. “The name of the game here is growth – it has tremendous potential. The growth potential for BPC and equally for the wealth and jobs of The Bahamas is great. What gets me up in the morning is that potential. These wells have a potential that can change this region.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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