T&T MP: Gas deal favours Venezuela

(Trinidad Express) Government has “sold out” the country in a gas deal, signed last Wednesday, which favours the Venezuelans.

And Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s snub of the emissary of the Ghanaian president was seen as an insult by Ghana.

These were among blunders made by the People’s Partnership Government which have economic implications,  Diego Martin North East MP Colm Imbert charged in his budget contribution in the House of Representatives yesterday.

Imbert said this Government was conspicuously silent on the deal they had recently signed with Venezuela to jointly produce gas from three highly prospective offshore fields, the largest of which is the Loren-Manatee Field.

Imbert said the negotiations between the two countries  which began under the previous PNM Government and under the tenure of Hugo Chavez involved the sending of gas from the Loren-Manatee Field into Atlantic LNG plant and into this country’s industries.   The whole point was that the gas would come to Trinidad and Tobago to be used as feedstock for Train X for Atlantic LNG and also to provide much needed gas for the gas companies to utilise natural gas in Trinidad and Tobago”, he said, noting that this country had the energy infrastructure./

However this People’s Partnership Government has overturned the policy position and has agreed to send the gas to Venezuela,” he said.

Imbert quoted an article from the National Gas Daily which was published on September 12, 2013 headlined: “Caribbean Compromise brings hope in Caracas”. The article reports that the both countries signed the deal last Wednesday to jointly produce gas from the three fields. “The news is a boom for Caracas, with initial conduction from the largest field the Loren-Manatee, which holds 10.25 trillion cubic field (of gas) to be piped to and sold in Venezuela,” Imbert said as he read from the article.

“Madness!” declared Paula Gopee-Scoon. “Betrayal”” piped Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley. “Treason,” chimed in Imbert. “We have all of this gas straddling Trinidad and Tobago for years, there are negotiations between the two countries, Trinidad and Tobago has the energy infrastructure, it has an LNG plant already here”. He said Energy Minister Kelvin Ramnarine’s comment at the signing was broadcast over PDVSA radio station. Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PSDVA and US Company Chevron would begin work on the field immediately and Venezuela would bring within two year a 272 kilometre pipeline from Loren Manatee. Imbert said there was celebration in Caracas when the agreement was signed.

Imbert said the feasibility of Train X depends on the availability of enough reserves to justify this project.

Imbert said he heard Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran talking about the Government’s “fantastic initiatives in Africa.  He said following a request for proposals issued by the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation in May 2009 inviting proposals for equity participation in the development of Ghana’s natural gas infrastructure development programme, the Government selected out of the 48 proposals it received, the NGC led joint venture. In May 2010 NGC was poised to take the lead in the investment proposal in Ghana to use process gas to replace diesel for fuel in power plants. He said then Ghanaian President, John Atta Mills, concerned over the delay in getting the project going, sent his personal emissary in the person of the Ghanaian Energy Minister, Joe Oteng-Adjei, to Trinidad and Tobago to see the Prime Minister (Persad-Bissessar).

“For reasons that are not clear- well they are clear to me-  Minister was not granted an audience with the Prime Minister and met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs (then Suruj Rambachan) instead. Although there was no personal complaint from the Ghanaians the snub of President Mills’ personal emissary was surely received as an insult”, he said. Imbert said no board to NGC was appointed by the People’s Partnership Government until November 2010. The NGC was finally approved to travel to Ghana in December 2010.

Imbert quoted from a report given to the Ghanaian Government by the former Finance Minister, dated March 2011, which stated that there were “tremendous political risks to handing over this important Ghanaian project to a state-owned organisation (NGC) in Trinidad and Tobago. that can so easily be held hostage to the vicissitudes of political cycles”. He said the report indicates that Ghana has decided that they would not be dealing with Trinidad and Tobago again.

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