Who killed the Petrotrin refinery? Call names and I will whistle.

Who killed the Petrotrin refinery? Call names and I will whistle.
Photo : Franklin Khan and Keith Rowley

I don’t see anybody asking the multi-million dollar question why was Petrotrin losing money on each barrel of oil processed, and what was the solution to that problem?

So I will have to do it myself and give the answer too.

Petrotrin was losing money on each barrel of oil processed because its wage bill was too high, because there were too many highly paid workers for a refinery of that size. Their wages ate up any possibility of making a profit on the refinery, and has caused the closure of the whole kit and caboodle.

Yes I know the OWTU resisted all attempts to modernize the refinery and reduce the staff to international standards. I know most of the Petrotrin workers were solid “PNM until they dead”.

Remember  that high wages alone is not the issue, but high wages for too many people was the real killer. And just as in the case of the failed Iron and Steel Company ISCOTT we have incompetent management typical of black people managing state enterprises, inefficient workers who cannot be let go, an intransigent union, low productivity, and casual acceptance of mounting losses.

So where is my evidence for such a claim of overloaded and overpaid workers killing Petrotrin.

We hear Petrotrin is about to send home 1,700 refinery workers, and also understand the full number of people working in the refinery section is 3,400. Either figure will do for my calculation.

According to Petrotrin’s web site the refinery throughput is approximately 112, 974 barrels per day. I understand that today the actual figure is much less than that, but it doesn’t matter.

Photo : Ancel Roget

Now let’s look at some of the biggest and I presume most modern oil refineries in the world today for comparison with Petrotrin, found at http://www.listnbest.com/11-worlds-largest-oil-refineries-processing-capacity/

Here at number 10 in the world we have the Garyville Refinery operated by Marathon Petroleum at Garyville, Louisville, USA, with a daily production of 522,000 barrels “and presently running by over 800 employees.”

I hope sober readers get a shock like a hot bull pistle lash across the back.

Garyville has over four times the daily throughput of Petrotrin’s claimed average of 112,974 barrels per day but runs with a quarter of Petrotrin’s 3,400 workers or half of the smaller number of 1,700!

It’s as simple as that. Too many OWTU protected, PNM voting Petrotrin workers killed the company. Do I have to add that most of those workers are black people, unlike the gang at Caroni who got the boot but got no loot? Okay, forget that, this Petrotrin business is not about race but just economics!

 Number 11 on this list is the  Baton Rouge Refinery run by ExxonMobil at Baton Rouge in Louisiana, with a daily throughput of 502,500 barrels per day, and a staff of over 2,000. Same conclusion as with the Garyville refinery.

Baton Rouge Refinery produces over four times as much as Petrotrin, and by OWTU/Trinidad count should be employing four times as many workers as Petrotrin. They employ 2,000 plus workers compared to the 1,700 figure for Petrotrin or the 3,400 higher figure for Petrotrin.

However you jump, there is no escaping that Petrotrin has now, and has had for a long time, too many workers getting too much money, which money has made the company un-economic.

It’s really too late now to do the smart thing and modernize the Petrotrin refinery Not with that truckload of OWTU members dragging down the boat.

So the key question comes up: how long would it take to build a really modern, efficient oil refinery suitable for Trinidad, at what cost, and how many workers would be needed?

I figure they would have to scrap the outdated and inefficient current configuration of the Petrotrin refinery, save what units they could, and build a new one from scratch in four years or more. Double ouch you say? The cost would be hundreds of millions. Triple ouch!

I’m not sad to say they will have to let go the whole bunch of Petrotrin refinery workers, and not rehire any of them for the rebuilding or to operate the new refinery. If they have to import workers for the job from Venezuela or Aruba or Mexico, so be it. The new owners wouldn’t have OWTU to deal with.

I’ve been told that if freed from the obligation to pad the work force with OWTU types, a 21st century refinery suitable for Trinidad’s low daily throughput of under 100,000 barrels  could be run with less than one hundred people. It’s all electronics and computers, with a central control station resembling a nuclear energy plant, and a small group of maintenance workers.

If that sounds crazy, check out the  Jamnagar oil refinery in Gujarat, India, easily the world’s biggest at refinery throughput of 1.24 MILLION barrels a day, by all accounts the most modern in the world, and quite profitable too.

I tried to find out how many workers Jamnagar refinery employs, and the best I could get was that, “The complex includes a self-contained township, appropriately named as Reliance Greens, for over 2,500 Reliance employees and their families.“

Could they be refining 1, 240,000 barrels of oil per day, more than ten times Petrotrin’s output, with 2,500 workers?

Never happen! Can’t be true. Fake news!

Just like them fake workers at Petrotrin, aka boat anchors.