Belize Natural Energy Ltd.
Belize Natural Energy (BNE) Ltd. may be a relatively young company, but it has a strong advantage in Belize’s oil and gas exploration sector, Manager of Marketing, Logistics and Communications Daniel Gutierez says. “There are a number of other companies [in Belize] searching for oil,” he explains. “We are the only company that has successfully found it.”
The Iguana Creek, Belize-based company signed a production sharing agreement with the Government of Belize in 2003 and struck oil two years later, at the Mike Usher No. 1 Well in the Spanish Lookout area in Western Belize. “There were 50 years of exploration prior to BNE’s discovery in Belize,” Gutierez says. “We found oil (Belize light crude) in commercial quantities for the very first time in the country’s history.
“We moved immediately to get prepared for production,” he says. “By the end of 2005 and early 2006, we were already marketing oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Belize light crude has since become the backbone of the Belizean economy.”
Today, the company produces approximately 4,000 barrels of Belize light crude daily from the Spanish Lookout Field. BNE began production from a second field, Never Delay, in March 2011. In addition, two more discoveries have been declared to the government of Belize, Rock Dondo and Cayo West.
BNE has the expertise to operate in its region. “Belize Natural Energy brings together the experience of having drilled more wells in Belize than any other company with the most modern, cost-effective equipment in the country,” Gutierez says. “We have developed the capacity to explore, produce and market oil and gas in a cost-efficient and environmentally sound manner.”
Gutierez joined BNE in 2006 and has a background in international marketing. He believes it is critical for Belize to diversify its economy. “Oil and gas are really good ways [to do that],” he says. “I have had the pleasure in working at a leading-edge company for the last couple of years. I have seen what this company has done to keep Belize economically strong.”
BNE’s role as an oil and gas firm has its share of challenges, Gutierez admits. These include coping with the negative perception some people have about oil drilling. “It’s been a challenge to explain our operations to the general public.
“We embrace the eight International Finance Corp. performance standards for our social and environmental management systems,” Gutierez says, asserting that health and safety of its employees is the No. 1 priority.
“Nobody touches a screwdriver here on their first week,” Gutierez says. “New employees go through a week of orientation. We make them understand that to spill a single drop of oil is completely and utterly unacceptable. They [also] have to understand health and safety are critical aspects of the job, before they out go there and start working.”
The company employs a staff of more than 200. “Belize Natural Energy is a company that people want to work for,” he says. “Finding the right prospect depends on having the right team.”
Gutierez adds that he is very proud of BNE’s team. “There are so many people who do such good work,” he says, adding that its workers have a strong safety record. “In 2009, we worked 337,000 man-hours with only seven recordable injuries (non life-threatening).”
BNE’s gas recovery and processing plant processes the associated gas from the Spanish Lookout Field into fuel gas (for internal power generation) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). At current production levels, BNE can supply 25 to 30 percent of the Belize LPG market. BNE’s Belizean butane/propane is currently selling at over $30 cheaper than the imported product.
BNE does not want to limit itself, and is researching the possibility of a diesel production unit. “We would love to be able to produce diesel,” Gutierez says. “These are the kinds of leading-edge things we want to keep doing.”
The company also has shown its charitable side by giving a portion of its profits to local communities’ schools, libraries and programs. “It’s a way people can see the oil money in their communities,” Gutierez says.
“Even though our production is small, we have significantly contributed to Belize’s economy. The best days of the company are yet ahead.”