Can Trinidad produce one million bpd by 2020?

May 15, 2005 02:00 AM

One million bpd of oil produced in Trinidad and Tobago-is that remotely possible? (current production is 156,000 bpd).
Yes, says the Vision 2020 energy sub-committee, though it hastens to add that this could not occur until 2020 itself and only as part of a high production scenario which it offers for public consideration as part of a "back of the envelope" calculation. Its "medium" scenario for 15 years from now is half that-500,000 bpd and a "low" forecast is 200,000 bpd, which most analysts will probably accept as the most likely outcome.

Bear in mind that this far-reaching possibility is for oil and condensate (the lighter liquids produced with gas) only and does not include gas itself, though everyone seems to like to lump oil and gas into a "barrels of oil equivalent" (boe) figure these days, since it makes company -- and country -- figures look more impressive.
The energy sub-committee's natural gas output prediction is 15 bn cfpd -- yes, 15 bn-by 2020, with "medium" and "low" possibilities of 10 bn cfpd and 6 bn cfpd, respectively.

The year 2020 does seem a long time away. And I, for one, won't be alive then so you may be more interested in the "back of the envelope" forecast for 2009, which is as follows:
-- Oil production-high scenario 350,000 bpd, medium 250,000 bpd, low 210,000 bpd;
-- Gas production-high 7.8 bn cfpd, medium 6.9 bn cfpd, low 3.9 bn cfpd.

The "low" forecast for gas is certainly one that is going to come true, since production is now 3 bn cfpd and when Atlantic LNG's Train IV comes on stream before year's end will move quickly up to 3.8 bn cfpd, within touching distance of 3.9 bn cfpd.

So I think we can say with assurance that the sub-committee's calculation on that one is going to be spot on and maybe even be exceeded which only goes to show that we can probably predict more accurately about natural gas these days than we can about oil.
This is because the commercialisation opportunities for the former, based on firm reserve estimates, are so prolific, whereas the discovery of oil is a more indeterminate matter in Trinidad and Tobago at the present time. Just look at BHP Billiton's experience in the Angostura field in block 2c off Trinidad's north east coast: at first, it thought it had 160 mm barrels of recoverable reserves but as soon as it started to drill wells, had to downgrade that to 90 mm barrels.

So, it's clearly wise for analysts not to put their heads on a block about what is likely to happen on the oil front, though the energy sub-committee is obviously not intimidated by the uncertainties of forecasting the path that could be taken by oil. You will undoubtedly be dying to know on what the 1 mm barrel "high scenario" for 2020 is based.
Well, some of it will come courtesy gas itself in the form of the condensate mentioned above. The rest (and remember this is only a forecast) will be black oil which could potentially be found in new locations.

Let's take the onshore first in which interest among oil companies is now being revived, thanks to Energy Minister Eric Williams' proposed 3D seismic survey and exploration programme.
The sub-committee is of the view that "upside potential" exists in such locations as cretaceous reservoirs, lower tertiary reservoirs and deeper reservoirs of similar geological age to those currently producing.

Canada's Talisman Energy is about to see what the cretaceous (which only refers to the age of the rock, not what hydrocarbons it may contain) will reveal when it commences its exploratory drilling programme in the Eastern block in two months time. The cretaceous has already been successfully tested offshore, with BHP Billiton's Howler One well in the retained exploration area (REA) in block 2c, where natural gas was found. This flowed at 22 mm cfpd on a 36/64 inch choke but there could be more gas than that figure suggests.
The sub-committee is of the view that the application of 3D seismic technology to the Southern Basin on land will change the name of the whole game and lead to additional oil even from existing producing horizons, simply because companies will be able to see better (just like surgeons can operate with greater precision when they have a Cat scan or MRI of the inside of the body first).

The sub-committee points out in its report (which, by the way, has unfortunately not been made widely available and which should have been formally launched at a media conference) that "over 80 % of all new oil and gas found in Texas and Louisiana in the past few years has come from mature fields."
The "upside potential" on land also continues in the same geological horizons into the Gulf of Paria on the west. Some 3D imaging already exist there though "it is of poor quality generally." Onshore and Gulf of Paria tend to be considered together but what about the south coast from which, so far, no hydrocarbons are yet produced?

The sub-committee regards the Columbus Channel as, if anything, "gas prone" and therefore it seems unlikely to be able to contribute tothe suggested 1 mm barrel figure. However, the east coast offshore shallow Continental Shelf area might well be able to do so, despite the fact that gas has been by far the dominant hydrocarbon identified there.
The sub-committee, in fact, suggests that deeper drilling below the layers where current production is taking place could lead to the discovery of oil rather than gas, as might the older tertiary horizons in the fold and thrust belt to the north, when BHP Billiton found oil in oligocene-age rock (also another first for the company).

Perhaps the sub-committee's most surprising scenario is for the East Coast Deepwater which, to date, has been a major disappointment (ExxonMobil gave up even before it had completed its obligatory work programme there).
No distinction is made between the Deep and the Ultra-Deep where blocks are likely to be offered shortly but the outlook by the experts on the sub-committee is for "several oil and gas fields in deep water areas, with three to five giants and a few smaller ones."

So now you know where that 1 mm barrels is most likely to come from!

Source: Trinidad Guardian
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