BPTT investment in Trinidad and Tobago could be under threat, executive says

BP Trinidad & Tobago’s (BPTT) Pres. Norman Christie has warned the Trinidad and Tobago government that BPTT’s $5-billion investment could be under threat if it does not provide clarity on where future natural gas supplies will go and the prices they will attract.

In a blunt speech given Sept. 15, Christie said, “No sensible business person recognizing the context we are in is going to invest approximately $5 billion over the next 3-4 years into natural gas projects without knowing where the gas is going to go, and under what pricing mechanism.”

Christie’s comments come as the Caribbean twin-island nation and BPTT are expected to negotiate new gas agreements. Negotiations also are due with Atlantic LNG on a new gas-supply contract. BPTT is the second-largest shareholder in Atlantic LNG.

Speaking at the presentation of BP PLC’s 2016 Energy Statistical Review, Christie opined that a lack of clarity and investment could lead to more gas shortages in the future, even going so far as to suggest that it could be worse than the country has experienced over the last 2 years.

“Failure to bring clarity to these matters quickly will result in a sharp decline in investments, which will lead to a repeat of the circumstances that have materially contributed to the natural gas supply and demand imbalance that we are currently experiencing—only it will be worse.” Christie said.

Trinidad and Tobago has suffered from gas curtailment over the last 4 years and cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and also negatively impacted the country’s reputation for reliably supplying its petrochemical customers.

Christie said his comments followed a “longstanding request that the current Gas Master Plan [(GMP)] deliberations must result in clear policy decisions regarding matters such as gas allocation and price and must incentivize upstream investments in an increasingly competitive environment.”

Trinidad and Tobago’s Energy Minister Nicole Oliverre told the Guardian that the GMP will be going before the Standing Committee on Energy, which is chaired by the country’s prime minister, and its findings will then be released to the public.

But Oliverre was clear that the recommendations were based on the findings of the consultants who were hired to develop the plan and also it took into consideration the views of “all the stakeholders.”

Asked if that meant the GMP would address the issues raised by Christie, the minister said, “You know that the consultant actually recommended an expanded role for National Gas Co. of Trinidad & Tobago (NGC). The fact is that the NGC provided a secured market for the upstream gas suppliers and a guarantee supply to the downstreamers.”

In fact, the role of NGC and ensuring that Atlantic LNG gets its supply of gas appear to be a major point of contention between BPTT and the twin-island’s government.

Asked about whether BPTT wanted a review of the role of NGC, Christie admitted this was an issue, saying also it was a key component of getting this right so that there is balance in the risk vs. reward in the business.

Christie said BPTT has worked hard and against significant odds to develop the Juniper and onshore compression projects, which will start production in 2017.

He said, “Beyond these projects though, the next phase of planned major developments starting with Angelin are still not sanctioned and will not be sanctioned unless policy decisions properly recognize the context within which we are operating. We at BPTT have always said that it is not a matter of whether or not the hydrocarbon resources are here in Trinidad, but rather it is matter of how industry and government continue to work together to create an enabling environment to efficiently monetize those resources with fair returns for all stakeholders.”

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