Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley with President Nicholas Maduro in 2016 at the Presidential Palace in Caracas
By Sue-Ann Wayow
TRINIDAD and Tobago has been granted permission by the United States to develop the Dragon gas field in Venezuela.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley made this announcement on Tuesday evening.
It was a significant move for the country and a “giant step forward,” opening up business opportunities for the two neighbouring countries, he said.
The Dragon gas deal was put on hold after sanctions imposed on Nicholas Maduro regime by the US government.
Speaking at the press conference on Tuesday, Dr Rowley said, “The United States government has today approved Trinidad and Tobago’s development of the Dragon gas field via an OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) waiver from sanctions with specific terms to be finalised.
“What this means is that the restrictions on the Dragon gas field development is now relieved and all relevant parties can now progress the plans to result in natural gas from Venezuela eventually flowing for the first time from these proven reserves to Trinidad and Tobago and then unto Caribbean, European and other markets bringing much humanitarian benefits to the Venezuelan population and greater energy security to the Caribbean region.”
He added, “We are very grateful that we are in this position now where the planning can be accelerated and we can come to a day when the reserves from our neighbour, can come to our infrastructure and feed the demands as they exist within our region and outside of our region.”
In answering questions from the media, Dr Rowley said the terms of the licence were still to be finalised by both parties he said with the highest hurdle being crossed which was the easing of the sanction.
Shell would be the operator of the field.
Dr Rowley said the market was in desperate need of the products and Government will be moving full speed ahead to get it to the relevant markets.
One of the conditions of the licence that is currently valid for a two-year period was supplying gas to the Caribbean countries including Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.
There were no additional concessions and the cost for the license would be small compared to the billions, the field would be churning out annually, he said.
When asked about terms, Dr Rowley said, “We have not seen any terms that we can’t meet.”
He also said that there was nothing to be majorly concerned about.
A Reuters report stated that the Maduro regime will not be permitted to receive any cash payments from this project and that all remaining US sanctions would remain unchanged and still be enforced.
Dr Rowley said that the inability to pay cash was not new but there were other options to make payments.
The prime minister said it has taken years to convince the Venezuelan Government to allow Trinidad and Tobago to develop the field that is under the authority of the Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA.
Dr Rowley said Government continues to remain optimistic going forward aware that the US could one day change its mind about the sanctions.
He said, “At the end of the day, once it benefits all of us, there would be no good reason for the benefits not to be had.”
When asked what would the benefit of the release of such sanction for the US, Dr Rowley said he could not speak for the US but that a stable energy supply in the Caribbean, also meant a similar one for the US.
Dr Rowley also thanked the leaders of the varying CARICOM countries for encouraging the US to release the sanction on Venezuela.