Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley makes a statement on the suspension of the Unitization Agreement with Venezuela, for the exploitation and development of hydrocarbon reservoirs of the Loran-Manatee Field, in Parliament yesterday.

T&T and Venezuela are continuing to collaborate on the Dragon field project and the Loran Manatee field will augment gas production from 2025, assisting in alleviating gas curtailment, Prime Minister Keith Rowley said yesterday.

In a statement in Parliament, Rowley acknowledged that gas curtailment has been a worrying issue for the downstream industry.

“And I dare say, the national economy,” he added.

Rowley’s address focused on the development of the Venezuelan Loran-Manatee field and a status report on the Dragon Project. This followed his statements on Monday at the Energy Conference where he had spoken about both projects being affected by US sanctions against Venezuela. He had said the Dragon project was on hold but the Loran Manatee field, which is still on, would be a “gamechanger”. The Dragon field statements had dominated the news.

“Let me once and for all clarify for the average citizen our early initiative which is commonly and even derisively referred to by some as the Dragon deal,” he said

The Loran Manatee field is in the south-east and involves a gas field shared by T&T and Venezuela. The Dragon field, located on the north-west of T&T, lies entirely within Venezuelan territory.

“Our only interest in this field is wholly commercial and is entirely dependent on possible commercial arrangements. Very early in the life of this administration, we took steps to open up these commercial possibilities to allow Trinidad and Tobago industries to have access to a larger raw material base. The Dragon initiatives, when completed and operationalized, will also be beneficial to Trinidad and Tobago. The deal is still on but has been prevented from formally moving forward at this time by trade restrictions imposed the US Government on Venezuela,” Rowley explained.

He said it was a development over which Government had no control, “but any ultimate outcome will always be one of mutual benefit to all the people of Trinidad and Tobago and all of Venezuela.”

Rowley said first gas had been projected for 2023 and discussions had started on terms of a gas sales agreement.

“However, further progress has been stymied by US trade restrictions which have escalated and which target transactions with PDVSA. Notwithstanding, the Trinidad and Tobago Government and Venezuelan Government are continuing their collaboration on the premise that the trade restrictions on Venezuela will be lifted, sometime, in due course,” he said.

“The action by the Government in these matters is a clear indication of our commitment and resolve to attain a sustainable domestic gas industry. We’re on the right track as the positive results show we’re getting the job done.”

Rowley said progress in the development of the Loran Manatee field was curtailed by the US sanctions which block US companies from doing business with PDVSA. The T&T and Venezuelan governments agreed to undertake separate and independent exploitation and development of the field. He said this would accelerate development.

The agreement provides for the development of reservoirs within the Loran Manatee field by exploration and production companies. Under the production sharing contract, Shell will be required to submit for the Energy Minister’s approval a work programme and budget for the Manatee Field, detailing planned exploration and development.

Shell has initiated preliminary discussions with Government and is working on various development scenarios for early on-stream gas production of the field. Its projected gas production could commence in the 2025 period at rates ranging from 270mmscf/d to 400 mmscfd.

Rowley added that natural gas from the field wasn’t initially factored in Government’s gas production forecast but “in light of these agreements, can now be added as significant reserves to sustain the levels of gas consumption at Pt Lisas.”

“This development will, therefore, augment gas production from 2025 and assist in alleviating gas curtailment that’s been a worrying issue for the downstream industry and I dare say the national economy,”

He said: “Contrary to some disappointing but predictable, negative media headline reports, the dismantling of the Loran-Manatee Unitization Agreement is beneficial to Trinidad and Tobago.”