Trinidad and Tobago’s state-owned Petrotrin has announced that its $500 million ultralow-sulfur diesel (ULSD) plant cannot be commissioned because of “structural and seismic concerns.”
A company executive said told OGJ that there were technical issues that Petrotrin was now trying to work out with the contractor, but that the proposed 40,000 b/d plant will clearly not be opened this year.
Colin Ramesar, acting vice-president, refining, said, “We know it will not be commissioned in 2015. We hope to resolve most of the issues this year and when we are in a better position to say when it will be commissioned, we will communicate it.”
Explaining that it was difficult to discuss some of the issues because of legal constraints between Petrotrin and the contractor, Ramesar said, “In reviewing certain design considerations, we found some information that may not be up to where current standards should be and where this plant should be. Things came up that raised questions and we went back to the engineering with the contractors.”
The project itself has had several delays and now more than 1½ years behind schedule. Petrotrin, now refining at just two-thirds of its capacity, is heavily in debt and has flat production.
Ramesar explained that Petrotrin is losing potential revenue because the margins on ULSD are better than on gasoline and other refined products.
The company had argued that construction of the ULSD unit is part of its Clean Fuels Upgrade Program and its continuing effort to improve the profitability of the Pointe-a-Pierre Refinery to meet the challenges of ever-tightening product specifications.
It said the new unit would allow it to meet stringent new diesel quality market specifications for sulfur levels and aromatics.
Ramesar said the company had brought back online a number of plants associated with its Gasoline Optimisation Program, but that Petrotrin was still not producing the right mix of fuels for the market.
Ramesar said the tightening in the spread between Brent and West Texas Intermediate crude will help the refinery compete with those in the US.
He said Petrotrin has not looked at reducing its refinery staff, even though the company requires many more people to operate compared with similar refineries. Ramesar also confirmed that with 8 months left in its financial year, Petrotrin is predicting another loss.