Trinidad: Natural Gas Sales Down 21%

(Trinidad Guardian, 16.Apr.2021) — Natural gas sales in T&T declined by a whopping 21 per cent from February 2020 to February 2021.

According to figures from the Minister of Energy, natural gas sales continued to fall and averaged 2.646 billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d) in February 2021.

Natural gas sales are calculated based on the amount of the commodity used in the country, other than the gas which is re-injected into wells to increase production.

According to the figures which the Business Guardian has a copy of but which the Ministry is yet to make public, total sales to the NGC was 1,419 bcf/d, while 1.175 bcf/d was sold to Atlantic LNG. The country has installed capacity of 4.4 bcf/d.

The plummet in sales was mainly due to the falling production of the country’s largest natural gas producer BPTT which sold in 2020 1.8 bcf/d to the combined National Gas Company (NGC) and Atlantic LNG but in 2021 that had fallen to just over 1.419 bcf/d.

T&T has been suffering from natural gas curtailment for more than a decade now and several plants have been shut down on the Point Lisas Industrial Estate.

Only recently, the Business Guardian reported that production averaged less that three billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d) for the first time since the 1990s.

January 2021 natural gas production averaged 2,990 million standard cubic feet per day (mmscf/d) or less than 3bcf/d. This is 1.2 bcf/d less than the installed capacity in T&T and is part of the reason the Minister of Finance Colm Imbert raised alarm at the low natural gas production.

On January 10, Imbert told a news conference that due to depressed oil and gas prices and lower than expected production, revenue from royalties on oil and gas was down by almost half – $806 million or 49.2 per cent. Meanwhile, extra ordinary receipts from oil and gas companies also fell by 98.2 per cent or $100 million.

The Central Bank in its Economic Bulletin for January reported that natural gas production declined by 23.6 per cent (year-on-year) over the second half of 2020. The bank said Atlantic LNG’s Train 3 was taken down for planned maintenance during the period, which coincided with similar activity at BPTT, the country’s largest natural gas producer. The fourth quarter of 2020 also saw a drop in LNG production at Train 1 amid discussions amongst its shareholders surrounding the future operation of the facility. Natural gas production dropped 29.8 per cent (year-on-year) during October to November 2020 alongside a 46.9 per cent fall in LNG production.

The bank noted that the downstream industry also saw declines in output, with methanol production, falling 29.4 per cent during the period, while production of ammonia was down by 1.1 per cent.

The trend appears to have continued last month with low natural gas production.

The Business Guardian was told that the shortfall has made the NGC further cut back on its daily contracted quantities (DCQ) to the downstream sector.

Andrew Jupiter, the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy, a former President of National Energy and now an oil and gas consultant, recently said he did not think the problem of natural gas shortage can be solved anytime soon.

In an interview with the Sunday Business Guardian Jupiter said: “Short term we will never be able to come back to 4.2 bcf/d. In the long term I don’t think we will be able to do that either.”

Jupiter admitted that the only chance of the country producing 4.2 bcf/d will be to bring on the Loran/ Manatee cross border field and he said that could make a major difference but pointed to the deep water as the best possibility of long term high natural gas production.

He praised the move by the government to get agreement with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for Royal Dutch Shell to produce the 2.7 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas that is on T&T’s side of the border out of the 10 tcf in the field. He felt that this country will eventually produce the 10 tcf in T&T.

But he warned that it’s not just production that matters its also

Jupiter said, “One of the things people forget is the issue of price. So you may have gas but the price is too high.”

The former Permanent Secretary said the country must understand that what impacts us now is as a result of actions taken 10 to 15 years earlier. In this respect he admitted that the six years the country has gone without a bid round will have an effect on the country down the road.

Jupiter said that the country was no longer finding 1 tcf pools and the time had come for changes to the law to allow the sharing of oil and gas infrastructure with smaller players being allowed to develop smaller natural gas fields. He also pointed to the various examples of relinquished blocks leading to major discoveries including the Teak Samaan Poui discoveries and BHPs 2c discovery.

Jupiter said he remained confident the challenges in the energy sector can be solved but required all hands on deck and the best minds in the country working together.

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By Curtis Williams