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Questions Over Govt’s New Energy Company

Discussion in 'latest News in Trinidad & Tobago' started by alexk, Aug 26, 2018.

  1. alexk

    alexk Guest


    Questions are being raised about the role of a new energy company—Trinidad and Tobago Upstream/Downstream Energy Company—in the pending reorganisation and restructuring of state-owned Petrotrin.

    The new company, registered back in March, lists the directors as the Permanent Secretary in the Minister of Finance Vishnu Dhanpaul and the acting Permanent Secretary in the same ministry.

    Dhanpaul, in response to an email, directed all questions to the Minister of Energy Franklin Khan.

    Dhanpaul did not respond to subsequent questions about why he was listed as a director of an energy company even though he is employed by the Ministry of Finance.

    These concerns are now compounded by statements made by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley after the historic signing of the Dragon Gas Deal in Caracas yesterday. Rowley and a contingent was in Venezuela to meet with President Nicolas Maduro at the Mira Flores Palace in Caracas when he was asked by reporters about Tuesday’s meeting between Petrotrin and the OWTU.

    “Within the next few days, the Board of Directors at Petrotrin will meet the OWTU to discuss the restructuring of the company. The meeting will take place shortly after which the company will be in a position to tell the country what it intends to do to restructure Petrotrin,” he said.

    While on the way back from Caracas, Rowley spoke with reporters on the plane and said that Petrotrin could not continue the way it was going. He highlighted the fact that there are currently four rigs drilling for oil and none of them are in Petrotrin’s acreages.

    “Petrotrin is the only oil company that I know of that has developed a policy of being in the oil business and not looking for oil,” Rowley said.

    Suspicion rising

    The Prime Minister’s harsh criticism of the state company is not new. At the beginning of the year, Rowley gave a cryptic overview of the operations at Petrotrin and promised then to fix the problems “once and for all”. Soon after Rowley’s statements, the cash-strapped Petrotrin engaged in a series of talks with the OWTU and external advisers to carve out a successful way forward for the company.

    It is understood that a significant downsizing of the state company is on the table and suspicion is rising that this new company is established to take up the excess work but not the workers.

    It is also unclear if any of Petrotrin’s assets have already been divested into the new company. Back in June, when Khan first mentioned the new company, he said that it was the Government’s intention that “selected energy assets of the State be held by” the Trinidad and Tobago Upstream/Downstream Energy Company.

    On Thursday, the National Gas Company’s (NGC) Corporate Communications Manager Lisa Burkett was contacted about NGC’s own investment into the new company. Burkett would only refer to what Khan said back in June.

    “What was published in the newspapers as announced by the Minister of Energy is all that NGC can say at this point in time,” she said in response to emailed questions.

    When pressed further about the status of NGC’s upstream investment in Mitsubishi’s methanol plant under construction at La Brea, Burkett said that NGC would continue “to focus on its growth and sustainability portfolio until advised otherwise from its shareholder”.

    These new questions about the energy company comes at a time of increased tension between the OWTU and Government as the union plans to protest outside the Prime Minister’s official residence in Cascade today.

    Espinet: I do not know anything about that company

    Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet yesterday dismissed any questions that the new company was registered to replace Petrotrin.

    “I do not know anything about that company. It has nothing to do with anything I have to do,” Espinet said.

    “The Petrotrin board knows nothing of it other than what has already been in the press.”

    Though Espinet is keeping his cards close to his chest until after Tuesday’s meeting, the Sunday Guardian has been informed that the downsizing of the company is on the table.

    “I will not discuss the reorganisation of Petrotrin until after Tuesday,” Espinet said.

    Despite the lack of answers, the Sunday Guardian has learned that job packages have already been prepared at the new energy company.

    Back in June, the Minister of Energy issued a statement in which it mentioned the new company, describing it then as a “newly incorporated state-owned energy company”.

    He said then that Cabinet approved a Gas Sales Contract, executed on behalf of the Government by Trinidad and Tobago Upstream/Downstream Energy Operations Company Limited.

    Khan had detailed the successive failures to get the World Gas To Liquids off the ground until a 2016 Sales Purchase Agreement with NiQuan Energy.

    Khan said a review of the project showed financial benefits to the Government and state-owned Petrotrin, as well as the creation of jobs in the long and short term.

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