If it weren't for the nonexistent public relations skills of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Trinidad chapter, we would have learnt by now of the quite extraordinary optimistic attitude of the Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs, Kevin Ramnarine, to the possibility of identifying new natural gas reserves offshore Trinidad and Tobago.
Forget Ryder Scott's over-cautious estimate of proven reserves of 13.4 trillion cubic feet (tcf), probable of 7.6 tcf and possible of 5.9 tcf, all of which add up to 27.09 tcf, as of the end of 2010. Think instead of the potential of the 25.9 tcf of "exploratory resources," which the US consultants assert are out there, awaiting positive identification.
Minister Ramnarine believes a substantial part of the latter may soon qualify for inclusion in the 3P reserves category, assuming the geologists, the drillers and, indeed, the petroleum engineers, do their homework properly.
We would have long known about this had the SPE, of which the minister is a member in good standing, properly publicised the valuable information coming out of its 2012 energy confab, which rejoiced in the title of "Developing Resources for Sustainability".
I feel sure the minister would at least want my readers to know that he believes the alarmist attitude towards gas availability in the future is almost completely unfounded.
Take the current exploration effort in the North Coast Marine Area (NCMA) blocks 2,3 and 4 and in block 4b, off the east coast.
Blocks NCMA 2, NCMA 3 and 4b are being worked by Niko Resources and NCMA 4 by Centrica, under the name of Venture North Sea Oil Ltd. (it will be recalled that Centrica purchased the Venture Production properties in the North Sea a few years ago).
And what is Ramnarine's judgment about the amount of gas that these companies could potentially be targeting? Well, the intriguing aspect here is that the companies involved, usually much more circumspect in such matters, are actually more expansive in their calculations than the MEEA itself.
Ramnarine observes that "the respective companies estimates for the blocks range from 6.06 tcf to 20.28 tcf, while those of MEEA range from 4.29 tcf to 9.03 tcf of unrisked gas resources/reserves."
20.28 tcf? Why, that's four-fifth of the comparable Ryder Scott exploratory resources postulation right there!
Sounds too good to be true and, of course, it is (note the word "unrisked", a crucial caveat).
Still, its pleasantly surprising that, according to Ramnarine's figures, the companies are prepared to go out on that kind of limb.
But even that is just part of the good news. Recall the signing the other day by BG Trinidad and Tobago of the production sharing contract (PSC) for block 5d off the south east coast of Trinidad? This piece of acreage used to be known as block 5b and was where the duo of bpTT/Repsol made their cross border Manakin gas discovery in the distant past (it is matched with Coquina in block 4 on the Venezuelan side).
The surrendered portion of that block became 5d and some of it actually still bounces up against the maritime boundary line.
Since there was a cross-border find in 5b, you would expect there to be gas elsewhere in the block and, sure enough, Minister Ramnarine, quoting BG T and T's president, Derek Hudson, says, "it could have potential for 5 tcf of natural gas."
So the new gas prospects keep adding up and we're not through yet. On the day that the PSC for 5d was initialled, two other PSCs, for an incursion into deep water acreage, were also signed-off.
These related to blocks 23a and TTDAA 14, both awarded to a BP entity called the BP Exploration Operating Co. (companies tend to invent these names for new acquisitions in order to free their existing operations from high cost liabilities and because all PSC blocks are ring-fenced against any other interests a company may have because PSCs have a different tax structure to Exploration and Production (E and P) contracts.
While everybody wants oil to be found in deep water acreage to justify the high expenditures involved – BP is investing US$176 million to undertake seismic acquisition and drill two wells in the blocks – natural gas is also a possibility.
And what is the size of that possibility? No less than between 4.7-8.2 tcf (MEEA guesstimate) and 0.5-8.8 tcf (BP's assessment). You will notice again that, at the higher end, the company's figures are slightly more favourable than those of the ministry.
So what does all this add up to? It all adds-up to a potential bonanza of gas discoveries that come very close to Ryder Scott's total estimate of exploratory resources, no matter whose figures you choose and discounting the deep water block prospects which were not included in the consultants audit.
Even if the companies only confirm 20% of the total, that's a significant amount of gas that could find its way into the 3P inventory.
BP's exploratory work in 23a and TTDAA 14 is the outcome of the 2010 auction of deep water acreage.
But there are six other deep water blocks out for bids at the present time, with the closing date being July 30.
These are: 25a, north east of Trinidad, TTDAA 1, TTDAA5, TTDAA6 – all in the southern part of the deep water region (TTDAA 1 is actually on the maritime border line with Venezuela), TTDAA 28 and TTDAA 29, way up in the northern part of the deep water, well north east of Tobago.
This is an interesting mix, in various geographical locations and selected on the basis of acreage which the companies themselves thought potential.
Minister Ramnarine is naturally circumspect about hazarding an estimate for these blocks but he did tell the SPE that "the acreage is a mix of hydrocarbon play types and production potential and is located on trend with existing hydrocarbon plays and production."
Sounds promising enough to be going on with, no?
David Renwick was awarded the Hummingbird Medal (Gold) in 2008 for the development of energy journalism in Trinidad and Tobago.