Updated: September 2019
Trinidad and Tobago’s energy sector is predicted to make a modest recovery in 2019, on the back of increased natural gas production and hence increased LNG and petrochemical exports. However, the future of oil production largely relies upon the new State oil company, Heritage Petroleum Company, and the ability of the new company to attract capital and successfully drill new wells, improve the integrity of its existing assets and improve operational efficiency. In a recent Trinidad and Tobago Energy Chamber event, a senior member of Heritage Petroleum expressed optimism about the opportunity to produce more from the existing acreage.
GAS PRODUCTION OUTLOOK
Trinidad and Tobago’s gas production trended upwards in 2018, after years of falling production post the 2010 peak. The current projections indicate continued growth through 2021, when production is predicated at 4.14 billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d), meeting expected demand from existing plants. Trinidad and Tobago’s peak natural gas production occurred in 2010 at 4.3 bcf/d. In February 2019, gas production was 3.9 bcf/d which is the highest production rate since 2014.
With existing wells showing average annual declines in production of approximately 12-15% per annum, the increase in gas production is expected to come from new fields, in addition to compression projects and additional development drilling from existing platforms. Trinidad’s newest gas producer, De Novo, successfully brought the offshore west coast field, Iguana, into production in December 2017. The company produces on average 75 million standard cubic feet a day (mmscf/d).
BPTT achieved first gas for the Angelin in February 2019. The new platform, BPTT’s 15th installation offshore Trinidad and Tobago, has a production capacity of 600 mmscf/d.
In terms of new field development, projects that are currently either in execution or in advanced planning stages include Shell’s Bounty and Endeavour fields, all off Trinidad’s east coast. In addition, Shell is developing its Colibri project off the north coast. The recently announced Matapal project will develop the gas resources discovered by BPTT in 2017 with the Savannah exploration well. The project will be a three-well, subsea tie-back to the existing Juniper platform, with first gas in 2022.
2019 BID ROUND
The shallow water bid round closed in May 2019. The bid round offers acreage off the east, north and west coasts of Trinidad and the Government expected to attract significant interest from both the existing international operators in Trinidad and Tobago and new players as well.
The results were somewhat disappointing in that the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries only received bids on three blocks. The bids that were received were jointly bid on by BP and Shell. While it is disappointing that the number of bids was not what was expected, it is encouraging that two major international oil and gas companies continue to express confidence in Trinidad and Tobago and are committed to further exploration activity.
PETROCHEMICALS AND LNG
The major development in the petrochemical sector in 2019 will be the coming on stream of the Caribbean Gas Chemicals plant in La Brea.
For the existing producers, the main challenge will remain the availability of natural gas at competitive prices. There was significant progress in contract negotiations between the National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (NGC) and downstream plants during 2018, but significant further negotiations remain, and the challenge of gas supply remains a threat.
The difficult negotiations between the Government and the suppliers of gas to Atlantic LNG appear to have made significant progress towards the end of 2018.
Shell signed an agreement in May 2019 which is a significant milestone for the Government as it features an enhanced revenue package for the sale of LNG.
Recently however, BPTT announced that there were issues with their infill drilling programme which led them to place a hold on the programme. If the issues are not addressed, the fear is that this will result in BPTT not being able to meet contractual obligations to supply gas to Train 1 after 2020.
CRUDE OIL PRODUCTION
The big story in the Trinidad and Tobago energy sector in 2018 was the closure of the Pointe-à-Pierre refinery. For the coming year, there will be continued widespread interest in any possible buyers of the refinery assets.
Heritage Petroleum was established to focus on upstream exploration and production. The company has a major task ahead of it to turn around oil production, which fell significantly during 2018, and become profitable.
Crude oil production to the end of 2018 has been downward trending and reached a low of 63,000 barrels per day, less than half of what it was 10 years ago (114,000 barrels per day). Since the establishment of Heritage, there have been small month-on-month improvements in production.
The fall in oil prices at the end of 2018 and projected low pricing in 2019 will not help, but the good news is that the first few shipments of crude oil were reported to have received prices in excess of the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) benchmark.
This improved pricing should also help the smaller oil companies who traditionally sold oil to the refinery at a price lower than WTI. In addition to Heritage, other oil companies operating in Trinidad have announced plans to increase investment in new production and there is some exploration activity underway.
While increasing profitable oil production is an obvious short-term objective for the local economy, the reality of the global economy is that technological change and environmental and climate policy are driving forward a massive shift towards electric vehicles. This is likely to mean a long-term downward pressure on oil prices as supply exceeds demand.
With the world moving towards renewable forms of energy, developing expertise in this area is a priority for Trinidad and Tobago. During 2018, there was a lot of policy discussion on renewables and interest in the area is high amongst both the general public (especially younger people) and the private sector. The much-anticipated call for grid-scale renewable energy generation projects is due to close this year and investment decisions coming out of it will be closely watched by many people. A new renewable energy fund has recently been launched on the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange to generate capital for investment in renewables both here and around the Caribbean.
In addition, Minister of Public Utilities, Robert Le Hunte, has expressed a keen interest in energy conservation and energy efficiency. The Minister, at the recently concluded Energy Efficiency and Renewables Conference hosted by the Energy Chamber, said that if we could reduce the gas we consume for power generation by 10% it would save the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) TT$100 million. He added that that gas could be sold to the petrochemical sector where it would earn better returns.
The Minister also indicated that Cabinet recently appointed a committee to develop a National Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency Action Plan.View Companies Related to Energy and Energy Related Industries - Who's Who