The Government and the National Gas Company must come straight on the quarter-billion dollars it spent trying to keep Atlantic LNG Train 1 in operation.
Seven months later, the plant is shut down and not producing any LNG and according to our reporting, is to be shut down just like Petrotrin's Point-a-Pierre Refinery.
While for a multi-billion-dollar company like the NGC the loss of $250 million will not lead to it shutting down, one must consider that the money, if paid as a dividend to the Government, could have been used to purchase all the police vehicles requested, build four additional police stations, or at least two brand new secondary schools.
The questions that have to be answered are clear:
Who advised the board of the NGC and the Government to make the investment?
Why was it made in the face of the major owners saying they neither had gas for the plant nor were prepared to place any money behind its upgrade?
Where did the NGC expect to find gas for Train 1 in the short term?
Was there a risk that in seeking to supply LNG, the NGC could be conflicted by placing itself in competition for gas with its clients?
Was the decision to make the investment based on economics or politics?
Who will ultimately be held responsible if the money is eventually lost?
BPTT, which once provided 100 per cent of the gas for Train 1, has reiterated that it does not have the supplies and is focused on the three other trains or plants. It has also rubbished any talk that the issue has arisen because of any power play between itself and the majority shareholder, Royal Dutch Shell.
On Saturday, Energy Minister Stuart Young stated that the Government has been in discussions for months with all of the shareholders concerning the future of Atlantic LNG.
“These discussions are ongoing and at a very sensitive stage,” the Energy Minister stated.
We have been hearing this same refrain from the Government about the talks being sensitive.
In December last year, the late Franklyn Khan, who was then Energy Minister, also said the talks were sensitive.
He said then, “BP is saying that they have a shortage and they cannot supply, but BP is not the only supplier of gas in Trinidad, so we are in some sensitive negotiations, let me make that point, with upstreamers to supply gas to Train 1.”
Khan also promised the country that Train 1 would have been operating now.
It was this newspaper that last year broke the story of the NGC spending hundreds of millions of dollars to do the turnaround (upgrade) of Train 1.
Responding to Guardian Media’s reporting then, the late Khan said the operation of Train 1 was dependent on the turnaround.
Well, the turnaround has happened, the money spent and the plant remains idle.
However, the country needs some explanation from the Government as to where we are in this process? More importantly, it must also answer whether we can realistically expect the plant to restart and whether the money spent on its development is lost?