CUNUPIA – FORMER energy minister Kevin Ramnarine says drilling activity in Trinidad and Tobago has declined by 57 percent in the last four years.
He was speaking on Wednesday at the United National Congress (UNC) Pavement Report at the Ragoonanan Road Government Primary School in Cunupia.
Ramnarine said, “There is a major slowdown taking pace in this country in drilling. On land it is almost non-existent, drilling offshore is in decline.
“Rigs are leaving Trinidad and Tobago instead of coming to TT. That is the reverse of what happened when we (UNC) were in office between 2010 and 2015.”
He said a rig that has worked in TT continuously for eight years was now departing to Guyana.
Ramnarine said, “There is now more offshore drilling activity taking place in Guyana than in Trinidad and Tobago.”
He said for the first six months of 2019 there were 489 offshore rig days in TT compared to 556 in Guyana.
Ramnarine said, “We are at the centre of gravity of the Caribbean energy sector; this is now being shifted away from Trinidad and Tobago and that is something that must be preserved.”
He said the closure of Petrotrin on November 30, 2018 was the shutdown of the largest state enterprise in the Caribbean.
Ramnarine said some of the former Petrotrin workers were now suffering from depression.
He said, “Thousands of people have been affected by that closure. I speak to many of them on almost a daily basis.
“Many are yet to rebuild their lives. Some are suffering from depression.
“Some have left this country in frustration. I meet some of them when I travel to Guyana on the plane, they go to Guyana to look for work. Some are going to Suriname to look for work.”
Ramnarine added, “There is a cloud of economic depression over south Trinidad.
“We were told when they close Petrotrin last November because there was a debate in the Parliament – the vesting bill – we were told that all will be well and that milk and honey will flow. No such thing has happened.”
He said Trinidad Petroleum Holdings, the successor to Petrotrin, has $32 billion in debt on its books and questioned if the company would be able to service that debt.
Ramnarine said, “A big part of that debt, we must remind the country was incurred between 2005 and 2010 under the Malcom Jones administration at Petrortin for the upgrade of the refinery and the ill-fated gas-to-liquids project.”
He asked, “Given falling oil production, given falling oil prices, can TPH, which is the successor to Petrotrin, service that debt, pay taxes, pay royalties, pay salaries and invest in new drilling and new infrastrure all at the same time.
“That is going to be a very very difficult task.”