Trinidad Govt Announces New Company For Refinery Assets

(Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, Carla Bridglal, 18.Oct.2018) The government has announced a new state company, Guaracara Refining Company, into which the assets of the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery will be placed.

The refinery is scheduled to be shuttered by next month, and after the assets have been transferred to Guaracara, the company will advertise a “very broad” request for proposals (RFP), where any interested party can pitch their plan on how the refinery can be utilised.

“Everything will be open for discussion. At the end of the day, we feel we will get a proposal that is acceptable where we will no longer have this albatross around our neck called the refinery, but the assets can still be used in a productive way for the benefit of TT,” Energy Minster Franklin Khan said yesterday at the post-Cabinet media briefing.

Guaracara is one of five new companies created as part of the restructuring of state oil company Petrotrin, including Heritage Petroleum Company Ltd and Paria Fuel Trading Company, which will handle exploration and production and trading and marketing, respectively. Petrotrin as an entity will remain as a company to deal with legacy matters, and these will all be placed into one, Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Ltd.

Heritage and Paria were incorporated on October 5, but according to the Companies Registry, Guaracara is not yet listed.

Khan said a vesting order was being prepared to transfer Petrotrin’s exploration and production assets to Heritage and the terminal, port and pier assets to Paria. There will also be an assignment of exploration and production licences under the name of Petrotrin at the Ministry of Energy to Heritage.

“The transformation process is well on its way and going smoothly,” Khan said. The government hopes to have the new companies operationalized by the end of this year, he said. “All things being equal, 2019 will be a brand new year for the energy sector in TT,” he said. As it stands, all operations are still continuing under the name of Petrotrin. Khan added that all timelines are on schedule for the import and export of fuel and crude oil. The first shipment of fuel is expected around October 22-24 and the first crude export will be October 30-November 1. Neither Khan nor his Cabinet colleague Communications Minister Stuart Young could verify if Petrotrin had indeed retained a supplier for fuel. Khan said the company was “very close if not there already” when asked by reporters for the status, while Young said, given the information provided “I’m sure they have a supplier by now.”

Regardless, Khan said there would be a “seamless transition for the supply” of liquid fuel, liquid petroleum gas (LPG or cooking gas) and bitumen, and the country has a 20-day buffer supply should there be any lapse in delivery time.

Young also said that the price Petrotrin’s crude oil was fetching on the international market was well above the West Texas Intermediate price, the international benchmark price at which the TT budget is pegged. “We thought it would have been less than WTI. It’s even higher than we thought the crude was worth,” Young said.

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Khan: No Fuel Supply Disruption

(Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, Julien Neaves, 26.Sep.2018) — Energy Minister Franklin Khan has assured there would be no disruption in fuel supply to the travelling public with the closure of the Petrotrin Refinery next Monday.

Khan was responding to a question in the House yesterday from Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee on the strategic steps to ensure the supply of fuel was not disrupted with the closure of the Petrotrin Refinery on October 1, in a phased manner.

Khan reported the country consumes 25,000 barrels of liquid fuel per day or 3.9 million litres, comprising of aviation fuel, diesel, super and premium gasoline and small amounts of regular.

He said the refinery would be closed on a phased basis in October and upon its closure there would be a 20-day supply of fuel from stock. Khan said steps are currently being put in place for the importation of fuel from international traders and request for proposals from 13 reputable international suppliers and traders were currently out.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley also responded to a question from Lee that given Government’s offer to the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) of a preferential option to purchase the Petrotrin refinery if the Prime Minister could indicate the other options Government intends to pursue if this offer is not accepted by the OWTU. Rowley said it was Government’s position the refinery would be excised as a separate entity from the rest of Petrotrin’s business and be an independent asset. He said at that stage if OWTU puts forward a proposal to Government, the union would be given the first option. “They have indicated some interest is being shown pertaining to that.”

Lee asked if there were any other proposals but Rowley said he was not aware Petrotrin was in receipt of other proposals but interests have been expressed if the asset becomes available.

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Expert Says Closure of Petrotrin Refinery Will Decimate Trinidad

(Trinidad Express, 17.Sep.2018) — Former Director of Energy Industries at Industrial, Jim Catterson, says closure of the Petrotrin refinery makes no economic sense. He said the closure would decimate south Trinidad.

Catterson said unemployment would rise and poverty would spread across the nation.

Speaking at a press conference at the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) headquarters in San Fernando, Catterson said the Government must consider the proposal presented by the OWTU last week.

“Tens of thousands of people would be unemployed. These people would no longer contribute to the national economy through taxes. They would no longer contribute to the national economy. There would be a downward spiral of the economy into poverty,” he said.

Catterson said it was important that the government have further discussion with the OWTU and Petrotrin management.

“Get around the table and discuss the future of this industry and economy. It is the only way to resolve this situation. Find a way for the country to survive,” he said.

Catterson questioned why a government wanted to close the refinery and import petroleum products.

“Where would you get the foreign exchange to buy the things you need? And when you can produce these products yourself,” he said.

Catterson said oil workers were highly skilled, educated and knowledgeable and should be paid accordingly.

But he dismissed reports by Energy Minister Franklin Khan that salary and wages totalled 52 per cent of Petrotrin’s operating cost.

He said, “Salary and wages is under 10 per cent of the company’s operating cost. Oil workers are highly skilled, educated and handles equipment worth millions and potentially dangerous. So they should be highly paid.”

IndustriALL Global Union is a global union federation representing more than 50 million working people in more than 140 countries, working across the supply chains in mining, energy and manufacturing sectors at the global level.

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Energy MoU Soon Between Guyana, Trinidad

(Stabroek News, Marcelle Thomas, 2.Sep.2018) — A long-delayed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Guyana and Trinidad on energy cooperation is expected to be signed in the coming weeks, according to Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of Energy, Franklin Khan.

“The Government of Trinidad and Tobago is due to sign a memorandum of energy cooperation in the coming weeks, most likely there in Georgetown,” Khan told Sunday Stabroek via telephone.

The minister did not go into the details of the agreement and said that would be disclosed after the signing. He, however, emphasised that his government is willing to offer its assistance as this country prepares for first oil. “When the Government of Trinidad and Tobago is in Guyana, yes we will offer help and advice to the Government of Guyana on your emerging oil and gas sector and obviously seek their concurrence…,” Khan said.

No official from government was available for comment or to give details on what the agreement would contain. Minister of State Joseph Harmon, who is the minister responsible for oil and gas matters, was out of the country and would not be back until next week, his office said. Several calls to the recently-appointed Head of the Department of Energy, Dr Mark Bynoe, went unanswered.

Since 2016, discussions commenced between Guyana and Trinidad on an MoU under which the latter would provide various forms of support to the oil and gas sector in Guyana. Initiated during a visit here in 2016 by a Trinidad and Tobago delegation led by the then Energy Minister Nicole Olivierre, the MoU was expected to be signed at the end of that year but that did not happen. At the time, Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman had said that the pact would see Guyana receiving support in a range of areas, including advanced technical training for local personnel in the industry.

News of the proposed energy cooperation agreement between Georgetown and Port-of-Spain comes days after the Trinidad and Tobago government inked an agreement with Venezuela to import natural gas from the Spanish-speaking country. That agreement would see the twin-island republic purchasing some 150 million standard cubic feet of natural gas per day from Venezuela’s prolific Dragon Field.

Meanwhile, sources told Sunday Stabroek that it has been suggested to government that Guyana “takes a stake in the Petrotrin refinery and in this way acquire a strategic asset.” In that way, according to one source, Guyana could have its share of oil from the agreement with ExxonMobil and affiliates refined closer to home and secure jobs for persons in both countries.

Last Tuesday, it was announced that Petrotrin’s refining and marketing operations would be shuttered. With TT$8 billion in losses in the past five years and a bullet payment of US$850 million due in 2019, Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet had said that terminating its refining and marketing operations and retrenching 1,700 permanent and casual employees was the only way to save the company after 100 years of operations in the industry. Petrotrin also has a TT$12 billion debt and owes the Trinidad Government more than TT$3 billion in taxes and royalties.

According to the Trinidad Guardian newspaper, the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) leader, Ancel Roget, had warned that the refinery will be sold to private investors, but Espinet had dismissed this, saying, “There is no likelihood of that refinery being sold.”

Khan told Stabroek News that Petrotrin’s closure does “not really” affect the opportunity for Guyana to still look to T&T to refine its oil or look elsewhere. “We have decided to close the refinery because of its present configuration and cost structure. It is losing money and it’s not sustainable in its current form,” he said. “However, other business models could be proposed,” he added.

‘Mindful’

But while it is still early to tell what the Guyana and Trinidad government will decide, a source said, “Guyana may gain a controlling or sizeable share and develop refining capacity and meet many of the outcomes from having a refinery without having to pay as much. Additionally, we can ensure that a percentage of labour is Guyanese who will have to be trained and also we can address some CARICOM integration goals.”

A government official believes that Guyana has to be mindful of such a move, given the recent agreement Trinidad inked with Venezuela and this country’s longstanding border controversy with Venezuela. “We have to be mindful of a growing relationship between Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago and won’t want to compromise our energy security by having the asset in a nation where the government grows uncomfortably close with our main detractor…Venezuela may try to influence the [Trinidad and Tobago’s] relationship with Guyana,” the official said.

Khan was asked about possible perceptions and future implications of his country’s agreement with Venezuela but would only say, “We know of all the geopolitics and so on and will answer those questions then.” As to whether the government of Guyana ever discussed acquiring a stake in the now defunct Petrotrin refinery with Port-of-Spain, Khan said neither him nor his government has ever had that discussion.

Currently, it is still unclear what government would do with its share – about 14 percent – of profit oil from 2020 onwards, from its profit sharing agreement with ExxonMobil. As of last year, before the Department of Energy was formed, Trotman had ruled out this country investing in an oil refinery.

“We have done some studies on the feasibility of an oil refinery. We have opened that study for public debate and discussions…  Government has concluded that it, as a government, cannot spend US$5 billion dollars in an oil refinery,” he had said.

The US$5 billion sum he referred to was the figure that Director of Advisory Services at Hartree, Pedro Haas, had told government it would cost to build a refinery here. Haas was hired by the David Granger-led APNU+AFC government to carry out a feasibility study for an oil refinery in Guyana. From his analysis, the cost to construct such a facility would be some US$5 billion, with at least half the invested amount lost upon commissioning.

ExxonMobil was asked by this newspaper if it has decided on a refining company to whom it would sell its share of crude. Through its Public and Government Affairs Officer Deedra Moe, the company responded: “We sell crude oil on the open market. ExxonMobil has an equity crude oil marketing group – an integrated operations, logistics and trading team – that operates around the world and is responsible for marketing ExxonMobil’s global production of crude oil and condensates.”

And while Guyana prepares for first oil in 2020, the government of the US Virgin Islands last month approved a proposed US$1.4-billion operating agreement between itself and Arclight Capital Partners LLC, Boston, to restart the former Hovensa Refinery at Limetree Bay, St Croix. The refinery is scheduled for opening by the end of 2019. With an initial crude processing capacity of about 200,000 barrels per day according to the USVI government, the investment is expected to create 1,200 local jobs during construction and as many as 700 permanent jobs upon restarting the facility. The Hovensa refinery was a joint venture between Hess Corporation and Petroleos de Venezuela until it closed in 2012.

Hess is one of the partners in ExxonMobil’s 6.6 million acres Stabroek Block operations, which last week announced its ninth oil discovery.

Moe was asked if ExxonMobil was looking at refining in St. Croix and responded, “I am not aware of anything regarding St. Croix.”

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Petrotrin Severance to Cost at Least $1 Bln

(Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, Carla Bridglal, 31.Aug.2018) — Severance packages for Petrotrin workers will cost upwards of $1 billion, Energy Minister Franklin Khan estimated yesterday. But compared to the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery’s annual loss—estimated at $2 billion—that’s a small price to pay.

Khan said the company was still “crunching the numbers” but will offer early retirement for people over 55, as well as “exit packages” for young workers.

“That formula is still being worked out. The figure will be huge because the base salary at Petrotrin is big.”

While the wages at the refinery aren’t necessarily the highest in the company, he said that department did have the highest overtime bill, but overtime doesn’t come into play in the determination.

Khan acknowledged the human impact of the 101-year-old refinery’s closure, saying as a former employee, he empathised with them.

“The numbers did not stack up, otherwise we would have put the economy at risk. Having said that, no matter what spin you put on it there are approximately 3,000 families affected. I am very much conscious of it, and so is the Prime Minister. My entire career was at Petrotrin. I know most of those workers. I supervised some of them. I have a great deal of empathy for them. That is why we would be working out proper packages. We want a spin-off effect like what happened in Couva and Chaguanas after Caroni (1975) Ltd closed down.” Even if the refinery is closed, there will still be lots of activity in the exploration and production side. “I’m not too concerned about La Brea, Santa Flora and Point Fortin. The South Western peninsula is good. The major challenges are the communities of Marabella and Gasparillo, the catchment areas for the refinery.”

The refinery will initially be transformed into a terminalling facility to import fuel in bulk for onward shipping to the Caricom market.

Khan added that even though the company will have to now import fuel, there will be no change to the fuel subsidy. The fuel subsidy is estimated to be $900 million this fiscal year. There’s also a subsidy on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or cooking gas, for about $500 million. Petrotrin absorbs the LPG subsidy, but state-owned fuel distributor, National Petroleum, absorbs the fuel subsidy, so the change at Petrotrin will not impact the current subsidy model.

Khan also defended the government’s reticence to publicly comment on the decision to close the refinery. Dr Rowley is expected to address the nation on Sunday. “The announcement was made by the board of directors. Everybody in this country says it’s political interference that killed Petrotrin, so we empowered the board. We gave them the autonomy to act. They made a proposal, it was approved by Cabinet. We don’t have to be on a ball-by-ball commentary in that regard because the very thing the population is accusing the politicians of is what you are asking me to do.”

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Carolyn Wants Details on Dragon Gas Deal

(Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, Sean Douglas, 28.Aug.2018) — Four questions have been posed by Congress of the People leader and former energy minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan over the Dragon gas deal signed on Saturday between the leaders of TT and Venezuela.

“Whereas the government may not be able to publicly state the agreed price for gas produced from the Dragon field, it ought to provide details on the pricing formula and other emerging issues related to this project,” she said in a statement yesterday.

Saying the field will boost this country’s gas supply for both liquefied natural gas (LNG) and the petrochemical sectors, she said each use of gas is priced separately.

“In the case of LNG, the price at the well-head is determined based on the net back pricing formula, and in the case of the petrochemical sector NGC’s (National Gas Company’s) re-sale prices are linked to international commodity prices.

“If the same approach is not applied to the pricing of the Dragon gas, the NGC is at risk of its sale price being lower than its cost price thus incurring huge losses.”

Secondly, Seepersad-Bachan asked what is TT’s obligation to the special purpose vehicle (SPV), formed with Shell and PDVSA to build a 30 kilometre gas pipeline for US$100 million.

“What is the percentage holding of NGC in this SPV as this will dictate capital investment required for this project? Additionally, at what point does fiscalisation occur?”

Thirdly, she wondered about the deal in light of the current state of affairs in Venezuela. “Has the Government taken into consideration the geopolitical risks, which significantly impact on the viability and reliability of this project?” Would future governments of Venezuela honour this deal to supply gas at the agreed pricing?

If not, the NGC and the citizens of TT would bear the full cost of lost revenue for ALNG and petrochemical companies, Seepersad-Bachan said. “In addition, the literature is replete with examples of expropriation of assets in the Venezuelan energy sector. This places the US$100 million investment at risk should such an event occur. The Government and the NGC must openly indicate to the citizenry how they intend to mitigate these risks.”

She said answers to these questions will show whether this is “a theoretical dream or an implementable reality.” Seepersad-Bachan alleged Energy Minister Franklin Khan had erroneously likened the Dragon project (which fully lies within Venezuelan territory) to the Loran Manatee project which is a cross-border field.

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Venezuela Gas Price Deal Competitive—Khan

(Trinidad Guardian, 27.Aug.2018) — Government is giving no details on the pricing structure this country will pay for gas from the Dragon Field under the agreement signed with Venezuela on Saturday, but Energy Minister Franklin Khan is assuring that the pricing structure agreed to was competitive and followed “months of negotiation, serious intervention, serious sharing of information and serious sharing of economic models, to come up with an appropriate gas price”.

Speaking during a press conference at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain, yesterday, Khan said, “It is no cheap gas. It is competitively priced gas and is obviously no secret Dragon deal.”

Khan said Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, larger than Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States and has the fifth largest gas reserves in the world, which this country can benefit from.

“It’s a win-win situation, especially since we in Trinidad face challenges on the supply side,” he said.

T&T, he said, also has world-class gas infrastructure through which Venezuela can monetise its gas.

“This provides an ideal opportunity for Trinidad and Venezuela. If I can say so, I think it is a marriage made in heaven,” Khan said.

Khan said he took “umbrage” with the way the media reported on the deal signed in Caracas on Saturday by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro, as he dismissed a report in another daily newspaper that under the deal the T&T Government would be buying the gas at a mere US$1 per MMBTU. Khan said that was simply trying to create mischief by telegraphing to the Venezuelan people that the government was selling “cheap gas to Trinidad and Tobago”. However, he said the price being paid was substantially more.

Both countries, according to Khan, have benefitted, as T&T could import the gas, process it into LNG and for downstream petrochemicals “and still make a profit and it is a price acceptable to the Venezuelans to get a good monetary return for the resources they own.”

Khan said when Rowley was asked by T&T Guardian journalist Curtis Williams about the price, “Dr Rowley said these gas prices are subject to strict confidentiality clauses. However, he took the liberty to say the prices are very competitive and in some cases lower than what we are paying to domestic upstream producers in Trinidad and Tobago”.

He said it was widely known in the energy sector that “the commercial terms of gas sales agreement are subject to the strictest confidentiality clauses”. As he revealed that he could not even answer a question in the Parliament on pricing when asked some time ago, he said because of the confidentiality clause.

“No government past or present, UNC or PNM, has ever made known to the public any negotiated price of gas,” Khan said.

The PM did, however, reveal that under the agreement the volume of gas to be provided will be 150 million cubic standard feet per day with an option to go to 300 million standard cubic feet per day.

On Saturday, Rowley and Maduro signed two documents – a base term sheet for the Dragon Gas deal which set out the commercial term for the gas sales agreement, including volume and price, which was signed by the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, Shell as the private investor and the National Gas Company.

Another agreement was signed where both governments committed to the implementation of the project and to see it to finality. Khan said while it was a cross-border relationship with Shell, PDVSA and NGC, “at its most fundamental level it is a government to government arrangement”. He said the gas deal had the effect of securing “a long-term symbiotic relationship with Venezuela”.

He said it was a pricing model and template to allow them to move forward with other fields, including the Loran Manatee, which was the first cross-border project identified between the two countries more than a decade ago.

The Loran-Manatee field contains in excess of 10 trillion cubic feet of gas with 7.3 TCF on the Venezuela side and 2.7 TCF on the Trinidad and Tobago side of the border. Khan said Maduro suggested and PM Rowley agreed “we should develop agreements for the production of Loran Manatee.”

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