Does Trinidad and Tobago have enough gas?
by Curtis Rampersad
It's a heated debate likely to rage on for some time. Energy sector experts have now taken sides on the argument
about whether Trinidad and Tobago has enough natural gas reserves to support other gas-based developments and even
another LNG train.
South Trinidad Chamber of Commerce president Dr Jim Lee Young expressed his own doubts setting up a confrontation with Prime Minister Patrick Manning who decried the "pessimists" in the sector choosing rather to view the glass as being half full.
Lee Young told energy executives from Trinidad and several other countries gathered at the Trinidad and Tobago
Petroleum Conference at the Hilton Trinidad that he was doubtful the country had proven gas reserves to drive new,
huge gas-based projects. Lee Young also suggested that given the low price of the commodity, proposed projects like
an aluminium smelter might not be attractive or viable. In the audience at the time was Prime Minister Manning.
Lee Young also criticised the progress of increasing local content in energy sector projects which he described as "slow". But Manning immediately countered in his own address although he initially admitted there were "pessimists" who focused primarily on the depletion of existing gas reserves.
"In 1992, when my Government took the decision to encourage the development of an LNG plant, there were those who
felt that the available reserves were too limited to support such a project," Manning admitted.
"Our proven reserves at that time were significantly smaller than what they are now and it was felt by some that the addition of the LNG plant would have immediately cut the reserve to production ratio by half." He supported Government's persistence to develop its gas business by recent figures.
Gas reserves now stand at proven supplies of 20.8 tcf, probable of 8.3 t tcf and possible of 6.1 tcf at January 1,
2003. With oil, reserves stand at 990 mm barrels, the highest reported proven crude oil reserve in this country for
"If we continue with our exploration efforts, we can expect these figures to increase," he said. "In respect of natural gas, we are trending in the same direction."
This comes even as Government is now contemplating the possibilities of a two more trains of LNG in addition to the three in operation and a fourth currently being built. But still, there are concerns.
Atlantic LNG president Rick Cape admits that as of right this moment, there is not enough natural gas to supply other
LNG trains. But he was equally confident that based on current reserves and what is out there to be extracted, the
country will have adequate supplies for big gas projects.
"The debate on reserves will go on for some time, it will be played out for quite a while," he said.
Already, new reserves are being identified. Chairman of oil and gas giant BPTT Robert Riley says the company has
identified 630 bn cf of new gas to add to its resource base. Looking at its prospects in the Columbus basin, Riley
told the energy conference that the company had generated leads amounting to 15 tcf of risked reserves from which
drilling options would be realised in 2004 to 2005.
Atlantic LNG is building its Train IV facility which will be complete by 2006. Manning seems even more confident of future prospects.
In a competitive bid round opened last July and closed last month, ten blocks consisting of a mixture of shallow
water shelf blocks and deepwater blocks in the east and west coasts of Trinidad and the north and east of Tobago were
offered for bidding.
This mix of blocks will provide prospecting companies with opportunities for the discovery of both oil and gas, Manning said.