Birthplace of the steelpan, Trinidad and Tobago drums up visions of beautiful beaches, breathtaking marine life, and a spectacular annual Carnival celebration. However, the twin-island republic has a lot more to offer. The small island nation of 1.3 million people has a thriving petrochemical industry and is one of the world’s largest exporters of liquefied natural gas, and the largest exporter of ammonia and methanol.
2008 marked the 100th year anniversary of Trinidad and Tobago’s step into the energy industry. Commercial production officially began in Trinidad and Tobago in 1908. Since then, the country’s oil and gas industry has changed significantly.
Prior to 1908, the islands’ primary source of income was agriculture and sugar exports. But in the 1970s, oil production and refining activity soared. The exploration activities conducted after 1992 has led to most of today’s reserves. Trinidad and Tobago’s gas industry has been growing at over 10% per year since 1988. Today, its energy industry dominates the country’s economy. In fact, energy contributes to more than one quarter of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and the country’s major gas deposits have led to the growth of several gas-based industries, including ammonia and methanol.
Trinidad’s 24 offshore oil and gas fields have kept international operators busy. Not only do these operators produce oil, but they are major contributors to the country’s thriving natural gas industry. According to its website, the Atlantic LNG company of Trinidad and Tobago was formed in July 1995 and started a liquefied natural gas plant in Point Fortin. The local company is a venture combined of NGC Trinidad and Tobago LNG Ltd., Amoco Trinidad (LNG) B.V., British Gas Trinidad LNG Ltd., Repsol International Finance B.V., and Cabot Trinidad LNG Ltd. Amoco’s shareholding is now held by BP Trinidad (LNG) B.V. and Cabot’s by Suez (Trinidad and Tobago) LNG Ltd.
Atlantic LNG runs four trains
According to the company, the trains are owned separately, but a joint use and operating agreement among owners allows them to be run in combination, sharing common assets and costs. The company purchases gas from suppliers and sells freight from trains 1, 2, and 3 from its Point Fortin port. Atlantic operates train 4 as a processor of gas.
Atlantic LNG is the fourth largest LNG producer in the world, and the largest supplier of LNG to the United States, with about 58% of the share. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), total LNG imports to the US are expected to be around 950 bcf in 2009.
Of course, none of the 24 developments would be commercial if not for the pipe-line infrastructure to transport it to shore. NGC, Trinidad and Tobago’s National Gas Company, is currently undertaking several major gas pipeline projects to service petro-chemical and other plants.
Trinidad has a rich history of exploration and drilling achievement. However, recent exploration success has dropped off a bit while gas consumption has significantly increased. And as gas is becoming more difficult to find, it is also becoming more expensive to explore.
This is not stopping Trinidad nor its international oil companies. Several companies are forging ahead with development plans. Tullow Oil is set to begin a $150 million drilling project off northern Trinidad. According to a January 2009 article in The Trinidad and Tobago Express, Tullow Oil has signed two more contracts and was expected to start 3D seismic surveys in Q1 2009.
Voyager Energy, in partnership with state-owned energy company Petrotrin and Petro Andina, is also moving forward with aerogravity and aeromagnetic surveys. One is in the central block of Trinidad and is about 73,258 hectares. The other is a 85,584-hectare deepwater block in 4,500 ft of water.
Nevertheless, the country is facing declining gas reserves. Exploration and drilling activity needs a boost from the government. However, the recently announced 2009 bidding round has been put on hold.
According to The Guardian, Helena Insiss King, Director of Resource Management at the Ministry of Energy, said the feedback from companies who declined to participate in the last deepwater round indicated that the ministry did not carry out the bidding round properly. Therefore, they want to take more time to ensure they get it right. “We expect that we will be able to offer that acreage at the end of 2009,” she said.
Future of Energy
Though Trinidad and Tobago has been able to meet its demand for oil and gas using its own domestic energy resources, the country is taking serious steps toward the development of renewable energy. According to Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday, Energy Minister Conrad Enill said a government-appointed committee is researching solar, wind, wave and biofuel projects and will make recommendations by August.
According to Vernon de Silva, the energy ministry’s director of energy research and planning, “One way of extending the life of our non-renewable petroleum resources would be to increase the adoption of renew-able energy.”
In February, The Guardian reported that Energy Minister Enill launched the Government’s Renewable Energy Initiative. The goal of this initiative is to increase the amount of energy generated from renewable energy sources. According to Enill, members of the Renewable Energy Committee are working toward “increasing the energy mix between renewable energy developments and fossil fuel usage. This implies that as more and more electricity and other fuels are extracted from various sources of renewable energy, the utilisation of energy from oil and gas will decrease.”
Enill recognises that to achieve this goal will take several years. He is also aware that incentives will be necessary as renewable fuels initially will cost more than fossil fuels.
“Renewable energy provides us with an opportunity to complement our valuable petroleum resources through creating a more diversified energy portfolio,” Enill said.
In March The Guardian reported that the Energy Minister reaffirmed his dedication to renewable energy research in a speech he gave at the 2009 Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE) Conference. “Trinidad and Tobago has tremendous opportunities for the development of renewable sources of energy,” Enill said. However, “alternatives to crude oil and natural gas for power generation continue to challenge all of us.”
Trinidad and Tobago’s oil and gas successes have not come without risk. In 2006, the country took steps to manage this risk. After evaluating internationally recognised certified verification agents such as the US Minerals Management Service, the Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority and the UK Health and Safety Executive, Trinidad officially recognised DNV’s risk-based verification standards.
Trinidad has employed DNV’s standards on a number of verification projects. Notable verification projects include:
The NGC cross-island pipeline project.
The BGTTL Beachfield onshore gas condensate processing facility, which marks the first processing facility to be independently verified in Trinidad.
The bpTT Mango, Cashima, Amherstia, and Savonette field development process facilities, which are the first process facilities to be independently verified for bpTT.
The BGTTL Poinsettia development, which is the largest field development project independently verified to date in Trinidad.
More recently, DNV conducted a Health, Safety, and Environmental training course in Trinidad. The country’s Safe To Work (STOW) programme won national recognition at the Trinidad and Tobago Occupa-tional Safety and Health Authority’s 2008 National Safety Awards. The purpose of the programme is to develop and implement a uniform industry-wide system to ensure that a company’s HSE systems are stringent enough to work in the energy industry.
DNV ensured that participants learned the technical knowledge and skills to help service contractors meet STOW requirements. DNV also recognised strong individuals who could be certified as Independent Assessors or HSE specialists.