Equinor To Start Drilling Carcara Field In 2018

(Reuters, 5.Sep.2018) — Norway’s Equinor ASA said on Wednesday it would begin drilling in Brazil’s North Carcara oil field in the offshore Santos basin in 2018, after obtaining environmental permits.

Equinor’s senior executive vice-president in Brazil, Verônica Rezende Coelho, told journalists that the company aims to increase its production in Brazil to between 300,000 and 500,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day by 2030 from 100,000 boe/d.

(Reporting by Marta Nogueira; Writing by Carolina Mandl Editing by Susan Thomas)

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Tullow Oil to Drill First Guyana Well in 3Q:19

(Reuters, 5.Sep.2018) — Tullow Oil plans to drill its first well in the much-watched Guyana offshore basin in the third quarter of next year in its Orinduik licence bordering discoveries by Exxon, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

Exxon and U.S. partner Hess Corp have said that more than 4 billion barrels of oil equivalent could be recovered from the Stabroek block off Guyana, which is part of one of the world’s biggest oil discoveries in the past decade.

Tullow owns 60 percent and Eco Atlantic Oil and Gas 40 percent in Orinduik. Total has an option to buy 25 percent from Eco.

“Hammerhead-1 is located approximately 7 km from the Orinduik licence boundary … Hammerhead-1 found material oil in turbidite channel systems,” the Tullow spokesman said of a recent Exxon discovery in the Stabroek block.

“Our 3D seismic (data), which includes Hammerhead, shows that these channel systems extend up-dip (?) into the Orinduik licence. We will now pick the well location for our first well on this licence and remain on track for drilling that well in the third quarter of 2019.”

Tullow also has a 37.5 percent stake in the Kanuku licence offshore Guyana alongside Repsol and Total. It also owns stakes in two blocks off Guyana’s neighbour Suriname, where its partners are Ratio, Equinor and Noble.

(Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; Editing by David Goodman and Mark Potter)

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AMLO Plans Massive New Oil Refinery

(OilPrice.com, Irina Slav, 5.Sep.2018) — Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has plans to build the country’s largest refinery with a capacity to produce 400,000 barrels of gasoline daily, Reuters reports, citing comments by Obrador during a meeting with businessmen in Monterrey.

The refinery would cost US$8 billion to build and construction could start soon, which would see it complete within three years. Though Reuters quoted Obrador as saying, “400,000 bpd of gasoline,” it added in its report that the comments did not made it clear whether he was referring to the crude oil processing capacity of the future facility or its gasoline production capacity.

Currently, Mexico’s refineries have a combined processing capacity of a maximum 1.6 million bpd of crude but, Reuters notes, it has been working at just 40 percent capacity since the start of the year because of accident-caused outages and operational issues. Pemex, which operates the six refineries, also exported more crude as prices improved internationally. In July, the state oil company produced 213,000 bpd of gasoline.

Earlier this year, Rocio Nahle, an adviser to Obrador and the most likely candidate for the Energy Minister job, said “In a three-year period, at the latest, we need to try to consume our own fuels and not depend on foreign gasoline.” This would be bad for U.S. refiners, who export the biggest portion of their production to Mexico. In the last few years, Mexican imports of gasoline and diesel have risen to more than 800,000 bpd, representing over 66 percent of domestic demand.
Mexico’s current oil production stands at about 1.84 million bpd, of which 60 percent is exported. At the same time, according to Reuters, the country imports around 1 million bpd of refined products.

“The commitment is to produce gasoline in Mexico,” Obrador said at the Monterrey meeting. “We want to produce gasoline because we have the raw material, we have crude oil.”

Regarding production, last month Obrador said all oil auctions would be suspended until contracts awarded by the previous government over the last three years are reviewed.

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An Iconic Legacy Petrotrin – Not Too Big To Fail

(Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, Melanie Waithe, 5.Sep.2018) — Petrotrin has been in operation for over 97 years, and now our legacy refinery as we know it, will close. Its transition is set to begin next month. The announcement was made on the eve of our 56th anniversary of independence and Ancel Roget, president of the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) commented that a move to privatise the company would bring the country back to “plantation days.”

I offer the proposition that this decision of the Petrotrin board and Cabinet was not the best option, notwithstanding the massive debt with which the company has found itself burdened, due to decisions taken over the last decade. Unfortunately, the major stakeholders could not find common ground.

However, some experts believe there are wider and deeper economic and social implications that are hinged to this decision. I heard a former energy minister ask a pertinent question: was the decision based on the company’s balance sheet, or did stakeholders consider the effects on the economy. So, what were the other options available to the board?

Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) members responded to the news via a press conference and issued a statement in support of the plight of their fellow OWTU members. They took the news as a declaration of war on the trade union movement.

The OWTU had proposed a plan to focus on increased productivity, accountability, and achieving production targets, with employees taking full responsibility for performance. Its plan also addressed quick-win projects yielding an additional 2,000 barrels of oil daily, and multiple other initiatives in land and offshore areas. Increasing refinery efficiencies and reviewing from whom TT imports crude were among aspects of this plan.

OWTU’s education and research officer Ozzie Warwick said the Lashley team, chaired by permanent secretary in the Ministry of Energy Selwyn Lashley agreed with the union’s recommendations and commented, “It’s strange it didn’t recommend closing the refinery. But our plan will ensure Petrotrin’s survivability.”

According to reports, Petrotrin is heavily over­staffed, with deficiencies in technical competencies in key disciplines. Manpower costs accounted for between 47 and 50 per cent of recurrent expenditure. It’s net debt at financial year-end 2017 amounted to $11.4 billion while taxes and royalties owed to Government amounted to $3.1 billion. The company is projected to continue accumulating losses at a rate of about $2 billion a year, and left as is, a $25 billion cash injection is needed to keep Petrotrin afloat. Petrotrin also needs to improve the integrity of its assets, estimated to cost around $7 billion to prevent oil leaks for example. This is indeed a dying company.

An unfortunate circumstance is that now the company is apparently bordering on insolvency, as it has been operational only due to its non-payment of taxes, and the Government’s guarantees of short-term loans.

The Government had commissioned the now termed Lashley Report and a strategic review and transition report from McKinsey and Company Inc. After the Lashley Report was received by the energy sub-committee of the Cabinet, it was passed to the ministries of energy and finance and Petrotrin for deeper reviews and analysis, following which a new board was appointed to come up with a plan to turn the company around.

The Lashley Report recommended splitting the company into three divisions: land-based production; its marine operation, Trinmar; and refining and marketing. Energy Minister Franklin Khan had said no options are off the table, but the report failed to propose staffing cuts and steered clear of privatisation. These were glaring weaknesses in the Lashley recommendations. Is it because Lashley assumed that both options would meet trade union resistance? The restructuring proposal would also prove inconsequential.

In September 2017 Cabinet had agreed that the company engage the recognised majority union to discuss cost reduction and survival strategies.

The Prime Minister claims he had formally invited Roget for discussions in an attempt to work out a way forward but the invitation was declined. The union was also apparently invited to sit on the board, and that too was declined. When Government hosted the Spotlight on the Energy Sector at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad, the union once again declined the Government’s invitation.

I seriously question the union’s motives in its unavailability to consult and participate in good faith in discussions to find workable solutions for such an important state-sector company. Was this the best representation the union could have made in the interest of its members and our citizens? Was there sufficient consultation to generate the best ideas given the real-time situation at Petrotrin?

At the worker level, we all should sympathise and offer our collective support as their lives will be altered due to decisions made by others. Given the vacuum created, and the absence of business suggestions to offer alternative opportunities, we would be left with higher unemployment and affected communities.

The Government has now made a bold poker move by “bluffing” the union when the PM publicly offered to sell Petrotrin’s refining assets to the OWTU. This offer should not have surprised anyone, as all reports dealt with the asset integrity of the company, given that the plant is close to 100 years old and carries little, if any, value on Petrotrin’s books. Mothballing the plant would simply not be a strategic economic option, and therefore its sale to a private operator was always on the cards.

The question then is, if the refinery is sold, would the successor company inherit the terms and conditions of the collective agreements? In other words, would any new refining company be viewed as a legal successor to Petrotrin.

This move I think is a well played one, as it now challenges the union to “put its money where its mouth is”. It also provides the Government with the public relations and politically defensive cover of being worker sensitive, while at the same time putting the union into the space to do what they have been calling on Government to make happen.

What is now very clear is that the Petrotrin refinery is not too big to fail, as we have survived both the dismantling of CL Financial, as well as the closure of Caroni Ltd. This too we will survive.

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Bail out Petrotrin

(Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, Vashtee Achibar, 5.Sep.2018) — Industrial relations consultant Gerard Pinard wants to know whether Government considered every available option before it took the decision to close down the state-owned Petrotrin refinery. He said the decision was not a good one and will hurt the economy and the society because of the important role Petrotrin plays in the country.

Speaking with Business Day, Pinard a former chemical engineer with Trintoc, the predecessor of Petrotrin, said more information should have been made available for such an important development. He cited the announcement by the majority trade union in Petrotrin, Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) that it had taken them by surprise.

He said while everyone expected something to happen, no one expected it would be as drastic as sending home 2,500 people. He recalled OWTU leader Ancel Roget referring to a memorandum of agreement signed with the Government prior to the last general election, and a joint committee being set up to look into ways and means to make the company viable.

The IR consultant said Petrotrin is duty-bound to consult with the recognised trade unions and must engage them in matters that involve their future. He said the decision to close the refinery cannot be done unilaterally, and if this was the case then the employer (Petrotrin) could be found guilty of an industrial relations offence in the Industrial Court.

“I do not have the information. The union is saying that it came like a thief in the night. If that is so, then it was badly handled. If in fact there were discussions that it was going to happen the union is entitled to put forward alternative options and asked for continued discussions,” he said.

Continuing to press the point that the closure was not handled well, Pinard said it is not only about the workers who are to be sent home.

“There are over 6,000 retirees, over 5,000 contract employees, over 20,000 people who rely on the medical services mostly retirees and former employees and their families. The company runs a hospital and they provide medical benefits at subsidised rates for all these people. We do not know what is going to happen now to them. Will it continue? We don’t know.”

Apart from people directly connected to Petrotrin, Pinard said people in fence line communities of Petrotrin will feel the full impact of the closure.

“Tens of thousands of people from the southern communities, the whole of San Fernando, Pointe-a-Pierre, Marabella, Point Fortin, Santa Flora and Fyzabad depend directly or indirectly on Petrotrin for their livelihood. I don’t know how much thought has gone into that. You have to have job losses but we don’t have the information to say whether this was really the only alternative or the best alternative.”

Pinard said he was puzzled why a bailout, as was done in the case of Clico, was not used. “So my question really is whether TT, as an oil and gas based economy, did not think that our oil industry was strategically important enough to find some ways to save it.” He said Government could have considered writing off part of the debt or taking over part of the debt temporarily as was done in the case of CL Financial.

Pinard said he is not in agreement with Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet that there must be a higher level of oil production to keep the refinery running.

“For the chairman to be talking about we only have 45,000 bpd production and saying the refinery needs 160,000 bpd and therefore you cannot run a refinery profitably, there are countries which have no oil at all and who have refineries operating because they have to import everything to process and refine. So that by itself could never be a reasonable conclusion. We are located right next to the country with the largest oil reserves in the world. Have they considered importing crude from Venezuela?”

He called on Government to explore every available option before taking such a drastic decision to send home workers. He said retrenchment and laying off should always be the last resort.

In an address to the nation on Sunday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley Government had little choice but to close the refinery, stating Petrotrin would need a $25 billion cash bailout to stay alive. Petrotrin loses $2 billion a year, on a recurring debt of $11 billion.

He said the refining assets of would be placed in a new company for potential buyers, including the OWTU, while Petrotrin will focus on extraction and exportation of oil. The Prime Minister is due to meet trade unions, led by the OWTU, today, mostly likely to discuss the state of Petrotrin and the movement’s call for all workers to engage in a day of rest and reflection tomorrow in protest of Government’s economic policies.

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