Energy Minister Franklin Khan has made a bold prediction that by 2025 crude oil production will increase to 92,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd), up from its present production of 57,000 bopd.
The minister said this projected increase does not take into account any additional major discovery that may be made in the intervening period and which may quickly be brought into production.
Khan would no doubt have based part of his prediction on the already sanctioned BHP Ruby project which at peak will add 16,000 bopd and the ability of state-owned Heritage to increase its production based on its significant and under utilised assets.
In an interview with Guardian Media Khan alluded to the potential of Heritage and said, “Now I am speaking to them very regularly and I have told them I want a laser-beam focus on production and they are doing that. They have evaluated the Trinmar acreage, there is the Jubilee field that they are going out to a joint venture for, there is South-West Soldado which they will be going on a joint venture for, to bring in the investment level, to bring in the production.”
According to the Energy Minister, Heritage will also seek to increase the lease operatorship/farm-out onshore and he has told them they have to come up with their own drilling programme for the land-based assets.
The minister also promised to have a bid round for further deep exploration in what is called the Siparia syncline for Herreras, similar to where Touchstone has made several discoveries.
He said, “This will probably take about two years but I can see Heritage ramping up to over 60/70,000 barrels of oil per day by 2024.”
All of this sounds impressive and makes sense. For years, almost two decades to be honest, energy ministers have promised to do something about declining production on land and on the West Coast. Nothing has actually worked.
Former energy minister Kevin Ramnarine, like Khan, had made a bold promise of increased oil production, mainly led by what was the then Petrotrin.
Ramnarine in 2011 told a meeting of the Energy Chamber; “As a country, we must move quickly to maximise on the high oil prices both from a WTI and Brent perspective. The ministry’s forecasting of oil production indicates that oil production which averaged around 94,000 bopd for January to October 2011 should edge back up towards the 100,000 bopd mark in 2012.”
He also had this to say on natural gas production, “There continues to be a shortage of natural gas to the Point Lisas Industrial estate. This problem is not due to a lack of reserves. It is a result of poor coordination. The Ministry of Energy starting January 2012 will be chairing a quarterly production optimisation meeting that will ensure that this never happens again. In terms of a solution, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“We expect that the EOG Toucan Platform would commence production in mid January to mid February and that this would provide relief to the problem at Point Lisas.
“The NGC has also commenced works on the NGC pipeline network to ensure that we have more flexibility in the deliverability of natural gas. This involves connecting BG at Beachfield into the NGC domestic grid.
We must understand that the system of supply and demand for natural gas is tightly optimised and any disruption will now be immediately felt at Point Lisas. I will also add that new developments of natural gas have proven to “dry gas” and therefore we have a commensurate decline in the production of liquids in T&T. This places even greater emphasis on getting oil production back up above 100,000 bopd.”
History has shown that on both counts Ramnarine and the Ministry of Energy failed to deliver.
I make the point about Ramnarine to say that it is easier said than done and that increased oil production from Heritage will require significant investment of hard cash, something the country does not have and Heritage is short on.
To be clear, the company has declared significant profits but when one considers the costs of wells and the risks associated with drilling then one understands that Heritage is going to require either significant joint ventures or a different approach has to be taken to allow private capital access to the oil resources now under the control of the state.
With the climate change challenge facing the world and the move away from fossil fuel and in particular liquid fuels, the country has to be focused on moving quickly to get the oil out of the ground or risk having a product that no one wants.
Crude oil and natural gas are only important based on the value of the product and most experts feel there is a window within which they will remain relevant.
The announcement by the world’s leading car makers of their move away from the production of combustion engines by between 2030 and 2040, if successful, will deal a hefty blow to oil prices and production and even now there is real doubt about oil and gas majors investing in any new search for crude, unless that oil can be discovered quickly and sold into the market for profit.
It is why the failure of this government to act quickly in the energy sector to solve the myriad of problems facing it is inexplicable and tantamount to political malpractice.
This column has been on the record on calling for Khan to be replaced as the Energy Minister, and it is to his credit that he was prepared to sit down with Guardian Media and have a frank discussion about his tenure as the Minister of Energy and explain his side of why things are where they are.
In the interview Khan also promised by 2025 the natural gas shortage that Ramnarine spoke about in 2011 will be finally solved. Fourteen years later and with several petrochemical plants already gone.
As a country we have to wish Khan good luck. We need the revenue that can be generated by the energy sector and we need to get the oil and gas out of the ground quickly and invest it in areas that will lead to sustainable revenue streams into the future.
We have already lost billions due to LNG transfer pricing that neither the PNM nor UNC seem to have a problem with and one can only hope this time we get it right in the important, but sunset sector.
We are running out of time and while Khan and this government say the right things, their actions fail to back up their promises.
Those who felt we would be well on our way to herd immunity by now, see how old talk and basket doh hold water.