Story by Susan Morrice, Chairperson Belize Natural Energy
Quotations by Brendan Raymond, Production Engineer, BNE
Belize Natural Energy is headquartered in the Iguana Creek area of Belize, Central America. Equipped with a modern processing and refining plant is in stark contrast to what the area looked like eight years ago. Back then, the space was a scrubby field with only a dream to occupy it. That dream originated from a little Belize boy called Mike Usher who really wanted to make a difference in his country. BNE Chairman and founder, Susan Morrice met Mike 30 years ago and together they searched for that dream. The dream of establishing an oil industry that didn’t exist and providing the people of an often overlooked country with skills and guidance to succeed. However, other energy companies had explored the Central American country and found nothing but dry holes; 50 of them to be exact. This led the industry to believe there was no oil in Belize with no chance of ever finding any. Susan and Mike knew in their hearts there was. 10 years ago both of them attended the Educo seminar which gave them the building blocks to turn their dream into reality; into the invincible vision that BNE is today. Within three short years, Belize Natural Energy became the number one revenue generator in the entire country of Belize.
BNE has contributed in excess of 400 million dollars to the government of Belize which has really boosted their ability to manage and run the country. On the foreign reserve side as well, it has greatly increased the foreign reserves which has helped businesses around because that is something we rely on for trading purposes and everything. So, those contributions on the financial side have really made a great impact on the country and the community around for the Spanish (intelligible) community that we produce (intelligible) in. The businesses, the restaurants, the maintenance store, the hardware departments, all of those businesses have benefited from that and that really encompasses the holistic model that we push for here at BNE.
Today, BNE has won global awards. In 2013, they won the Education in Energy Award, which is awarded to companies that put education at the core of their company. BNE beat out 40 other countries, including Saudi Aramco who won it last year, changing the paradigm shift of even the definition of the award. They also won the University of Belize’s Green Award, which is unprecedented for an oil and gas company to be recognized for their responsible environmental contributions. In addition, they have even won the employer of the year award which is hosted by the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industryin partnership with the Rotary Club of Belize recognizing the best workplaces in Belize.
When individuals visit Belize Natural Energy, they really notice the energy in the people. Most recently, an international insurance company visited and they stated very clearly that BNE was above world class standards in fire, safety and other programs. They were fascinated by the high standard of entire organization but were also struck by the sense of, as they put it, family at Belize Natural Energy amongst the 300 plus people.
Today, leaders of countries and companies from all over the world are asking BNE what is this Educo Holistic Business Model? These companies ask if BNE executives can visit their countries and companies and explain that structure that gave birth to, that is the core of, the success of Belize Natural Energy.
It was about 30 years ago when Susan landed in Belize and fell totally in love with the people of the country. It was a genuine desire to make a difference that really merged with Mike Usher, who was a Belizean boy whom she met years before who really wanted to make a difference in his country. Both Mike and Susan felt there was oil in Belize and weren’t discouraged with the 50 dry holes drilled there prior to their exploration. 50 companies had come to Belize drilling wells all over the country, both onshore and offshore and had declared, internationally, that there was no oil in Belize. However, Susan and Mike were sure. They shared the dream but didn’t really know how to begin to chase it.
Like Susan, many individuals have had amazing dreams for their countries and companies but couldn’t quite get them off the ground. Susan and Mike’s attending the Educo seminar 10 years ago was that key turning point for them that made the entire difference. 10 years ago, the mood of Belize was hopelessness and when oil was first discovered against all odds, the attitude immediately changed. Led by Renne Villanueva, the local, national and international media brought the eyes of the world to the small Central American country to an oil discovery against all odds at the Mike Usher #1 well.
Immediately after the oil discovery, Susan and the BNE Directors had the responsibility of building a world-class holistic company. Each director, manager and employee in Belize Natural Energy attends and takes part in the Educo Seminar so that they too could be in alignment with the vision of the transformation of the entire country. This transformation only occurs when every employee fulfills and fill up their building block in the Educo pyramid structure and overflows it with extraness, as they say at BNE.
Working at BNE has really been a blessing. I mean, I’ve had the opportunity to work in other places around the world including Houston and it’s none like what I have experienced here at BNE. I’ve gotten a lot from BNE. BNE has invested a lot in my personal growth and development as far as training me up to be able to assume the roles and responsibilities that I have. And at the same time I’ve been able to give back to BNE and they’ve really allowed me to grow and develop as a person. I’ve been able to help my family, my friends and everybody and it kind of ties back into what the whole holistic model is about here at BNE. It’s about giving back. It’s about more than just BNE. It’s about the community. It’s about the people of Belize and I’m just fortunate to be a part of it.
It is this extraness that outsiders recognize in the employees at BNE. It is that drawing out of energy from within which is seen at every single level in every single department of BNE. For example, the administration and their work with the local community involves them truly listening to the requirements of the community which leads to spending more on these requirements. Although it costs the company financially it has led to a great relationship with that community that is vital to BNE’s success. In addition, BNE’s high standards in their engineering department attracts people from all over the world to observe this unique business model.
Starting with our producing sites out in the field, that’s an area that we are really investing in heavily to ensure that we have the proper safety features in place. All of our well sites are equipped with cameras to allow for real time monitoring. We have our automation systems in place and emergency shutdown devices in place that will shut off the unit for any abnormal conditions. And our main goal there is to ensure the safety of the operation, the safety of the personnel working there and also the community around us because it’s important for us to all be together as we produce this oil. We have implemented systems that have greatly reduced the amount of gas that we flair off to the environment. We have our turbine system that produces our own electricity for the facility and also for the pumping units out in the field so we’ve been able to greatly reduce our carbon footprint in our operations and in turn has allowed the community and everybody to benefit from that.
Throughout the years we have had a lot of industry experts travel from all around the world to come and visit us here at BNE and they’re really impressed with all areas of our operations, but one of the things they are most impressed with is our control room. That’s really the central point of our operations where we have all the information coming in; all the monitoring, the production reporting and analysis is being done. We realize that the transporting of our crude from our Iguana Creek facility down to Big Creek is probably one of the more riskier parts of our operation. So, we really put a lot of thought to see how we could really raise the level of our operations at what we are doing and have implemented a state of the art monitoring system to monitor our tanker trucks from the time they leave here at the Iguana Creek facility to when they arrive down at the Big Creek in realtime GPS tracking of the trucks, monitoring their speed to ensure that is adheres with the international standards for the transportation of crude and also allowing the drivers to notify us in the event of any accidents or emergencies on the road.
So, really the focus there is much bigger than just the safety of the trucks on the road, but ensuring the safety of our employees and also our impact on the community as we move the oil.
Every day, BNE’s loading dock welcomes over 20 big oil tankers that arrive and load up the Belize crude. Each tanker is a Belizean who is fulfilling their dream to have their own company through BNE’s assistance. BNE has helped many of them by co-signing loans for the purchase their trucks, which is how the word, the extraness, is spreading out around the community.
While BNE directors are incredibly proud of Belize Natural Energy and this beacon it has become internationally, they are even more delighted that others in Belize are replicating the Holistic Business Model. These individuals have attended the seminar and are applying what they know to chase and achieve their dreams. From Cayo to Belize City, all over the country in different forms, their dreams are becoming realities.
BNE boasts a 96% Belizean workforce and are the number 1 revenue generator in the country but the effect goes much further than that. They are tremendously proud of the fact that a wide variety of businesses from hotels to gas stations, rental cars to corner shops are all really flourishing and re-investing in their businesses and the infrastructure of the country over the last eight years.
From the very beginning, the holistic business model represented a desire in BNE for a win/win situation for all parties involved; the government, the community, BNE and the investors. For instance, BNE is the only company that has provided dividends almost immediately, within four years, to their investor group. They been lucky enough to have done this twice and are about to do it again before the end of 2013. In addition, the Belize Natural Energy Trust was set up to reach out to the community in many different ways including educationally, financially and environmentally which brings out that extraness; that creative force they are drawing out in all sectors of the Belizean community.
As it stands today, BNE as a testament to the success of the Educo Holistic Business Model. Seven years ago BNE was only a dirt field. Today, it is a beacon; a beacon that an entire country is proud of. Belize and BNE welcome, with open arms, all those who wish to visit. Belizeans are a proud people inviting everyone to come understand this holistic model and the difference this can make in other countries as well.
Milestones in growth and development of BNE
- 2005: June 1 – Belize Natural Energy formally announces commencement of drilling operations
- 2005: June 25 – BNE Strikes Oil!
- 2006: February 26 - Petroleum Advisory Board Appointed by the Government of Belize
- 2006: March 23 – Announcement by Minister John Briceno of Belizean oil in commercial quantities at House meeting
- 2006: September 1 - Dr. Gilbert Canton appointed as C.E.O.
- 2007: February - Social and Environmental Management System formalized
- 2007: April – Gathering Pipeline System & Iguana Creek Central Gathering Facility Completed
- 2007: October – BNE Strikes oil at Never Delay #1
- 2007: November – Headquarters moved from Belmopan to the Central Gathering Facility at Iguana Creek
- 2008: February – The Energy Exchange Report is published and distributed to all Belizeans
- 2008: March – Larger and more modern ship contracted to handle increased production
- 2008: May – Second drill rig contracted for accelerated exploration program
- 2008: September – Crude oil sales account for almost 60% of Belize’s export earnings (Statistical Institute of Belize)
- 2008: November – Monitoring of tanker trucks via satellite tracking system
- 2009: February – Construction of the Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) Processing Plant completed
- 2009: March – Inauguration of BNE Charitable Trust