Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Stuart Young hopes to return to Caracas, Venezuela, in a few weeks to continue discussions on the Dragon Gas Field deal.
Speaking at yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing at the Diplomatic Centre hours after returning from similar discussions in Caracas, Young said a delegation of experts will accompany him to continue those discussions.
“I would hopefully be leading a team and a delegation of experts and technical persons in three weeks’ time, the second week of March, back to Caracas for us to continue those conversations and negotiations that are set on the right pathway for us to be able to jointly develop the Dragon Gas Field and hopefully bring that gas into production in Trinidad and Tobago, as well as in Venezuela,” Young said.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced on January 24 that the United States had waived energy sanctions against Venezuela via an Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) waiver, paving the way for T&T to develop the PDVSA-owned Dragon Gas Field.
Young said yesterday that he had just returned from his second visit to Venezuela since T&T was provided with the OFAC waiver. The waiver was granted for a two-year period.
He was asked if there was the possibility of T&T being left in the rain on the Dragon Gas Field deal when the waiver expires, for instance, if global oil and gas turmoil changes for the better with an end to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the US does not extend the licence.
Saying US officials had assured him this would not be the case, Young said, “We are in continuous conversation with (the) US Treasury and OFAC and we don’t see that as an issue. In fact, in the conversation that I had had with the United States government officials on the day, the morning that they were going to announce the OFAC licence, this was one of the main discussion points between us and we are entitled to apply for renewals et cetera and they said do not worry because this is the longest we can grant. We see that you’ve applied for a 10-year and whilst we are prepared to consider, unfortunately, the OFAC doesn’t grant for a longer than two years.”
He added, “We have been in a partnership, for example, with Dragon for quite a long time. We know the situation in Trinidad and Tobago and the benefits this can provide. So no, the two-year expiration on the OFAC licence is not affecting whatsoever our progress. It is premature to give any timeline and I’m certainly not going to give you any timeline at this stage as to when that gas comes to market.”
Little has been given by way of details on the proposed deal, suggesting the talks are not yet close to finalisation.
Earlier this month, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro also condemned the decision by the US to grant the waiver for the deal on the condition no funds be paid to Venezuela.
“They tell a country it has permission to negotiate with Venezuela, but it cannot pay in dollars or any form of cash. It must pay with food or products,” Maduro said, adding “that is colonialism.”