Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Experts: Govt jumped gun on 'big' oil find

There were more mixed reactions yesterday to the announcement last Thursday of a large oil find by State-owned Petrotrin.

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley on Friday said the discovery off the Gulf of Paria was good news for the country.

But he said it was presented on Thursday during Government's post-Cabinet press briefing as public relations propaganda.

A number of energy industry experts yesterday labelled what Government announced as a 48 million-barrel oil discovery as a case of premature optimism.

At the post-Cabinet briefing Carol Telemaque, Petrotrin's manager of prospect generation, admitted the crude oil discovery was not a major find by international levels.

"This is not proven reserves in the common international standards with respect to how you determine and state what your proven reserves are. We still are testing and evaluating the area," she said.

"Later on, probably at the end of the year, we'd be better able to say with greater certainty what our outlook is in the area and whether we can make it fully commercial," she said.

One senior energy expert yesterday said he was upset the pace of Petrotrin's discovery was being dictated by party politics.

"What is the big deal? From what I have seen, this is no new discovery," he said.

"We are dealing with politics of the moment. What matters to the government is that today is today and tomorrow is tomorrow. This is what you get when the boards of State enterprises are politically appointed," he said in a telephone interview yesterday.

"When that announcement came, I got several calls from Trinmar and it was a big joke in there since there are so many questions yet to be answered before such an announcement should be made," he said.

He said he was surprised at the venue for the announcement and "in his day" politicians would not have attended what should have been a Petrotrin announcement.

"What that tells you is how seamlessly Cabinet and the leaders of the State enterprises are intertwined," he said.

"Petrotrin and (the National Gas Company) have become an extension, an arm, of this government," he said.

He explained if State board appointments continued, there would never be any continuity in the State enterprises.

"A company, a country's revenue earner, should not be taking political direction, but rather should be making economic decisions."

Dexter Daniel, Petrotrin's operations adviser in the Exploration and Production Division, defended the announcement but admitted it was not that big a find.

"At least not until you understand the fuller implication of the find," he said.

Daniel said Cluster-6, where the discovery was made was indeed not a new area.

"We knew of oil in that vicinity, but we knew there was heavy oil in that area, which is expensive to develop. What was remarkable is that we found light oil and that was truly a big discovery," he said.

He said there were five exploratory wells drilled in which two held heavy oil, two light oil and the fifth was dry.

One petroleum engineer attached to Trinmar put the find in context.

"Cluster-6 was always lucrative, that is a proven fact but the announcement of the reserve and the production time was premature," he said.

"I am not sure that we have done all our homework based on that announcement they made, because come (tomorrow) you may very well hear something different," he told the Sunday Express in a telephone interview yesterday.

The engineer said he was curious about the timing of the statement because of a lucrative S-14 well that was still producing upwards of 400 barrels per day and had a capacity to produce an estimated 200,000 barrels more and yet nothing was said about it.

"And that well was drilled in the 70s and capped and is producing untested right now," he said.