TRINIDAD-Government defends talks with significant energy and gas producers in Europe

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Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley speaking during Monday's news conference (CMC Photo)

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – The Trinidad and Tobago government Monday defended its decision to hold high-level talks with significant oil and energy companies in Europe, saying that it was necessary to meet with those officials who are making decisions in a changing global environment characterized by tightening of finances for oil and energy production.

“I am pleased with the responses from those who make the decisions concerning investment in Trinidad and Tobago,” Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley told a news conference.

Rowley, who led-a two-member delegation that included his Energy and Energy Industries Minister, Stuart Young, for talks with the energy giants in the United Kingdom and Switzerland, told reporters that “there is tremendous pressure now internationally concerning production in oil and gas and funding and marketing places and so on.

“We as a country where the government, not the local private sector, is the player in Trinidad and Tobago among these international companies, it is the government’s decision that will determine how Trinidad and Tobago comes out of this environment, and we are seeking to make the best of the opportunities and to stave off the deleterious developments that could harm us in the medium and the long term,” Rowley said.

Rowley told reporters that Trinidad and Tobago’s oil and gas production in recent years had declined significantly and that production systems around the world were also being challenged, with the marketplace now being “where certain critical decisions are to be made now.

“The most critical decisions we are facing in Trinidad and Tobago are decisions concerning expenditure on new explorations. There is enormous competition for exploration dollars, and if we sit idly by and wait for something to happen in our favor, it is quite possible that certain decisions which are critical to us may not be made in our favor.

“They may be postponed, shelved, or abandoned completely (and) for us to prevent that happening and to ensure that the decisions are made where we are not left out, the shift that we have made is to ensure those who make those decisions, concerning the companies that are operating in our fields, particularly offshore and in the petrochemical sector that they make decisions knowing that the government and people of Trinidad and Tobago are anxious for these decisions to be made and they are made in our favor and not being made with us being on the outside.”

Rowley said it is against that background: “I could tell you that I am very pleased that we are well positioned for a continuation of the investment profiles of these three companies that are critical to the economy.”

The Trinidad and Tobago delegation held talks with the Swiss-based energy company, Proman, that Port of Spain said it had reiterated a commitment to invest an estimated US$1.1 billion over the next ten years for significant plant maintenance turnarounds here.

Proman describes itself as one of the world’s largest methanol producers and a leading fertilizer producer globally, with operations and assets worldwide.

Rowley said that Trinidad and Tobago is a crucial center of Proman’s operations, with 14 petrochemical plants owned and operated here and 1,100 employees accounting for 67 percent of its global headcount.

“We intend to extract every molecule of gas available to us, bring it to shore, bring it to plant and take it to market. That is the government’s position,” he said, indicating that the country was producing 4.2 billion cubic feet of gas daily at its peak, with the figure now down to 2.9 billion cubic feet.

“The principals at Proman at their global corporate headquarters met and discussed their current and future investments in Trinidad and Tobago and highlighted how these investment decisions for Trinidad and Tobago fit into the groups’ expansion plans. The government of Trinidad and Tobago encourages this, “Rowley said.

Prime Minister Rowley said that the discussions with BP were critical to the country’s energy future. At the same time, talks with Shell had become a significant player due to its acquisition of a Liquefied National Gas (LNG) business.

” It was reiterated that BP remains committed to investing in Trinidad and Tobago and would continue to work closely with the government to deliver value for the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

“As a dire4ct result of government interventions and discussions which are still ongoing…since 2015 and in particular the negotiation since 2018, we have seen BP investing seven billion US dollars in projects from 2015-22, and our ongoing negotiations yielded US$1.2 billion in value-added payments to the Treasury between 2018 and to date.”

Rowley said overall; predictions are that by 2028, the levels of gas that will be available here, if no new improvements are made, “will have far-reaching consequences for government revenues and I daresay for the quality of life of all the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

“That is why we have been working overtime…to ensure that the projections…are turned around, and it could only be turned around by new investments and booming production in new gas fields.

“The fields that we are exploiting now…which are producing gas for us now, it is a declining arrangement with every day you extract 2.9 billion cubic feet that is 2.9 billion cubic feet less in the field, and of course, it goes to zero in a known time frame,” Rowley warned.

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