Trinidad builds offshore natural gas platform

Oct 18, 2004 02:00 AM

A stone's throw from the spot where British explorer Sir Walter Raleigh happened upon a vast lake of tar in 1595, workers now build the first offshore natural gas drilling platform designed and constructed in a Caribbean country. Raleigh used the tar to cork the leaks in his ships, while the nation of Trinidad and Tobago is using the LNG to fuel an economic boom.
The drilling platform being built for bp Trinidad and Tobago (bpTT) -- the Trinidad branch of London-based BP Amoco -- is scheduled to be completed in March and be fully operational in January 2006, officials say.

Several other platforms already are extracting natural gas off the former British colony, but the one under construction in the southern town of La Brea is the first to be built in the country instead of along the US Gulf coast.
When the 900-ton, four-level platform is complete, it will be lifted with cranes and installed 30 miles off Trinidad's southeast coast. The platform will extract some crude oil, but its primarypurpose is to extract natural gas for plants operated by Atlantic LNG in the southern town of Point Fortin, about 45 miles south of the capital, Port-of-Spain.

In recent years, Trinidad has become the leading supplier of LNG to the United States, supplying 75 % of imports last year. LNG comprised only 3 % of the total natural gas used in the United States in 2003, but that share is expected to grow to 15 % by 2025.
Trinidad, which has proven natural gas reserves of 30 tcf, reported economic growth of 12.8 % in the fiscal year ending October -- much of it due to LNG. The nation of 1.3 mm people relies on oil and gas for more than 25 % of gross domestic product. Officials say about 120 people are employed in the latest project, working in a yard where the hulking metal platform lies on its side, more than half finished.

The Cannonball Platform -- named after a local tree that bears balls of multicoloured flowers -- is projected to extract and process 700 mm cfpd of natural gas. Production could contribute an estimated $ 300 mm in tax revenues per year, said Robert Riley, president of bpTT.
"Cannonball is not just about building a platform, it's about giving this country the potential to provide the world with goods and first-class services," Riley said during a recent tour of the construction site.

The platform is being built by Trinidad Offshore Fabricators, a joint venture between the local company Weldfab and Chet Morrison. Riley, who is Trinidadian, said the total cost of construction and related projects is $ 139 mm-$ 140 mm more than it would have cost to build in the United States. The company hoped to gradually become more efficient with such projects, he said.
Trinidad's location just off South America makes it an ideal location to build platforms for Venezuela and West Africa, said Jeffrey Lee, vice president of international operations for Chet Morrison Contractors of Houma, Louisiana.

Atlantic LNG includes investment from Spain-based Repsol, Tractebel Trinidad, British Gas,bpTT and Trinidad's national gas company. It currently has four "trains," or processing units, in Point Fortin that liquefy natural gas by super-cooling it.
Trinidad's government is negotiating deals with bpTT and several other companies to build two more LNG plants. Last year it also signed a memorandum of understanding with neighbouring Venezuela to process its large natural gas reserves.

Source: Associated Press
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