Petrotrin’s TT$2.8 billion disgrace

(Trinidad Express) Petrotrin chairman Lindsay Gillette said yesterday the multi-billion dollar World Gas To Liquid (GTL) plant would be dismantled and sold as scrap iron.

And taxpayers would have to swallow the more than TT$2.8 billion loss, he added.

Gillette made the announcement yesterday at an impromptu media conference at Petrotrin’s Port of Spain offices initially to rebut negative statements by Opposition Leader Keith Rowley about the new gas find. It however quickly turned into a discussion on the financial burdens placed on Petrotrin because of the GTL investment.

Petrotrin acting president Khalid Hassanali attended the press conference.

“We actually considering right now, whether we should use this plant as scrap iron. That is a lot and that money could have been better spent looking for crude (oil),” he said.

“We spent TT$2.8 billion in building a plant and giving to the foreign shareholders total control of that money. Someone explain that to me,” Gillette said.

“We spent TT$2.8 billion in World GTL in a plant that right now cannot work, it cannot function. It is about TT$2.8 to TT$3 billion of taxpayers money that was spent on a plant that cannot work,” he said.

Gillette fired back at Rowley for his harsh criticism of Petrotrin’s technical team after the find was announced last Thursday.

“I call on him to unreservedly withdraw his remarks that the technical team at the State owned oil company fabricated a story about the oil find,” he said, adding that Rowley “maligned” the reputation of Petrotrin employees.

Gillette also said that Petrotrin followed the international protocol in announcing the one year old find only after confirmatory testing was completed.

Gillette, a former Minister of Energy, described the multi-billion dollar GTL investment as a “total disaster”.

He said he has been trying to find ways to modernise the plant to earn some revenue from it, but found it was not possible.

“I have been pulling my hair out of my head trying to find ways we can generate money from this plant and there are two alternatives, scrap it or do nothing and let it rot,” he said.

“If you put it into context that is almost half of the country subsidy money that just went waste,” he said.

The lost money, he said, was irrecoverable, but as the matter was still in court he could not divulge much more about the financial losses.

“I can only say a lot of my money, your money, the taxpayers’ money is spent on a plant that was wasted,” he said.

Gillette said Petrotrin’s focus now was to find as much crude oil as possible and reiterated the importance of the Jubilee oil find.

“This really does spell prosperity for the country,” he said.

Hassanali said because of the size of the find Petrotrin may seek the aid of a foreign investment partner to monetise the crude oil. He said Petrotrin said 21 joint ventures and did not see this as a problem.

In 2005, Petrotrin and US-based World GTL entered into an agreement to build the plant in Trinidad. It was supposed to be completed in 2008. The deal went sour when World GTL accused Petrotrin of wrongfully expropriating its funds, which led to a TT$12 billion lawsuit against Petrotrin in a US court in February 2010. Petrotrin alleged that World GTL breached its contractual obligations by defaulting on a loan payment and the matter was placed in the hands of PriceWaterhouse and Coopers to act as the local receivers.

 

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