Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine is upbeat about energy exploration and production for the New Year 2013.
"Twenty thirteen will be very busy for exploration. We are looking at 19 exploration wells in the next year from (oil companies) Petrotrin, Niko Resources and Centrica. There will be an unprecedented pace of drilling over the next (this) year," he said.
Ramnarine spoke to the media on Monday after a signing ceremony at the Ministry's offices, Tower C, Wrightson Road, granting Petrotrin two exploration and production licences for Trinmar acreages, Trinidad Northern Areas (TNA) Block and North Marine Block.
He said there will be "a lot" of developmental drilling this year to increase oil and condensate production.
"We are currently doing 82,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) way below our potential. Oil production has held firm, but condensate has taken a blow. We are expecting that to go back up, with bp bringing in condensate from the Savonette field," he said.
Condensate refers to relatively light hydrocarbons (with some dissolved hydrocarbon gases such as butane and propane) which remain liquid at normal temperature and pressure. Recovered mainly from gas reservoirs, condensates are very similar to light stabilised crude oil and fetches a similar price.
"There's been a recent trend for discovering dry gas fields ó not wet (producing condensate). If I get news that we've discovered a wet gas field I will be the first to celebrate," he said.
He admitted 2012 did not have significant investment in the downstream energy sector, but outstanding negotiations with Mitsubishi (for a methanol to petrochemicals complex) are expected to finish early next year. The project should begin tentatively for late 2013 or early 2014,he said, although he was aiming for 2013.
A major issue that had been plaguing consumers at the Point Lisas Industrial Estate since 2011 was the curtailment of natural gas supplies because of maintenance work on major supplier platforms.
"We are now pretty satisfied that the bulk of that maintenance work is completed. As of December (last) year we started to see Point Lisas return to a level of normalcy, and for the last two weeks there has been no curtailments at (the industrial estate). We are ending the year on a high gas note," he said.
He was also confident that oil production over the next year will be on the rise. "80,000 bpd is a base. We will see the increase in 2013 as Petrotrin starts to develop Trinmar and we see an increase in production of condensate," he said.
All this, he said, will be in keeping with the Central Bank's 2.5 per cent economic growth forecast for 2013. "A lot of the maintenance is behind us...production will be higher in 2013 than 2012," he said.