Trinidad and Tobago and Europe’s Energy Security
(8 March 2022) — The recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia has underscored the importance to many policy makers in the European Union of the need to reduce its dependence on Russian energy. This, in their view, must be done, in order to protect its energy security. According to a recent Reuters report dated March 7th, 2022, gas from Russia supplies as much as 40% of Europe’s needs.
Now how does this affect us in Trinidad and Tobago, a world away in the Caribbean? Trinidad and Tobago is one of the largest producers of liquified natural gas in the world. Atlantic LNG located in Point Fortin according to its website, with all 4 trains up and running, has the capacity to produce up to 100,000 cubic meters of LNG per day. On a yearly basis Atlantic can produce up to 15 million tonnes per annum of LNG. Owned predominantly by BP and Shell, both headquartered in the United Kingdom, with small stakes held by the Chinese Investment Corporation and the Trinidad and Tobago government, through the state-owned National Gas Company, Atlantic LNG represents a safe and reliable source of energy for Europe.
Atlantic LNG and Trinidad and Tobago, overall, as a mature energy producer, has been having trouble, ramping up supply to meet global needs. Train 1, with a capacity of 3 million tonnes per annum was recently shut down. This is a result of Trinidad and Tobago’s natural gas production having decreased from just over 4 billion cubic feet a day to 2.7 billion cubic feet a day in recent years. Lower natural gas production has caused gas curtailment issues as far back as 2014 for both Atlantic LNG and our methanol and ammonia plants at the Point Lisas Industrial Estate. Besides LNG, Trinidad and Tobago is one of the largest producers and exporters of methanol and ammonia in the world.
Upon coming into office in September 2015, the Keith Rowley Administration first sought to identify the issues facing our energy industry and came up with a novel solution to our faltering energy production, cross border gas from Venezuela. This gas would be monetized in Trinidad and Tobago and exported in the form of LNG, methanol and ammonia.
In August 2018 a deal was signed between the respective governments which would have seen Trinidad and Tobago importing gas from Venezuela’s Dragon field and transported via a 17 km gas pipeline to the Hibiscus platform, owned jointly by Shell and the National Gas Company, located on the northwest coast of Trinidad. Initially the plan was to import 150 million cubic feet per day from the Dragon field, with production eventually increasing to 300 million cubic feet per day. The Dragon field was part of a wider group of gas fields called the Mariscal Sucre project, which had the ability to produce 1.2 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas. Due to its closeness to Trinidad and Tobago, the natural gas had been identified for export. Unfortunately, because of US sanctions on Venezuela, the deal never got off the ground.
Another similar cross border project, the Loran Manatee field, which is about 73% located in Venezuela and owned by Chevron and PDVSA on the Venezuelan side and owned by Shell on the Trinidad and Tobago side faced a similar fate, and has since been decoupled. Instead of possibly having access to Venezuelan gas to monetize in Trinidad and Tobago, Shell will now seek to develop the Manatee field located in Trinidad and Tobago territorial waters alone, at initial production of up to 350 million cubic feet per day, before ramping up to double that amount.
I mention the above failed projects, because it is in my humble view, that Trinidad and Tobago’s energy production, can help fill the production gap, as Europe reduces its dependence on Russian energy. Trinidad and Tobago therefore is of strategic interest to the energy security of the West, and particularly that of Europe. As a long-standing friend of the United States and Europe, and with recent meetings between the American and Venezuelan governments to discuss resuming oil imports from Venezuela, as reported in the Washington Post, on March 6th, 2022, it is time for us in Trinidad and Tobago, together with the help of our European friends, lobby the Biden Administration, to allow us to pursue these cross-border energy deals.
If cross border gas from Venezuela was monetized in Trinidad and Tobago, we will be able to drastically increase production of natural gas and in turn exports of Liquified Natural Gas to Europe in the medium term. Europe and the West, as long-standing friends of Trinidad and Tobago, can count on us to be a safe and reliable partner, as Europe seeks to protect its energy security.
© Adam Raffoul /The Ward Post