BHP Billiton could put as much as $1bn into Trinidad and Tobago deep water exploration

BHP Billiton – one of the world's largest resources companies – has plans to invest up to $1 billion in oil exploration in Trinidad and Tobago, according to the Trinidad Express.

Speaking at an energy conference on Monday, BHP's Trinidad manager Vincent Pereira said the company was "very optimistic" about business on the island nation and that it "remains an important part of BHP Billiton’s global petroleum portfolio."

The country's deep water oil reserves are largely untested and BHP will start 3D seismic surveys later this year.

The funds will go toward a new "deep water exploration phase." About half a billion will go toward the first phase and the rest to optional steps thereafter, according to Trinidad Express.

BHP's Caribbean ambitions will represent the "world's biggest pre-drill, or seismic, exploration program," The Australian reported last week, though budget estimates at the time were reported to be about $200 million. 

Trinidad and Tobago is the largest oil and natural gas producer in the Caribbean. In 2012 it was also the world's sixth largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter and it is the largest LNG exporter to the US, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Pereira said its still unclear whether the designated deep water blocks are more prospective for oil or gas.

"Whether oil or gas is discovered, we will be looking for sufficient quantities to make any discovery commercially feasible,” he said, as reported by Trinidad Express.

The company hadn't put much emphasis on deep water plays in Trinidad and Tobago until recently when the country's fiscal terms became more "consistent with [the company's ability to make money," president of BHP’s petroleum and potash unit Tim Cutt said last December.

"The terms are now satisfactory," he said, as reported by Bloomberg.

Image featured on homepage: A stamp printed in Trinidad and Tobago circa 1969 | Photo by Lefteris Papaulakis