Something is funny about the pace
at which OWTU owned Patriotic Energies is moving towards replacing the old
Petrotrin refinery shut down in November 2018, but nobody is laughing.
Make no mistake, this refinery
slowcoach is the real crisis in Trinidad and Tobago, not corona virus, crime or
corruption. Patriotic is not telling the public anything concrete about when
this mythical refinery will start operating, and that is just not good enough.
The facts in this case are dead
simple. Refinery closed down TWO YEARS AND A QUARTER AGO, never mind the
reasons. After much shenanigans the refinery was offered up for sale and
Patriotic made its bid in June 2019 and was awarded the contract to get the
country a new refinery in early 2020. When can anxious citizens expect the new
refinery to start refining oil and producing much needed foreign exchange?
There is no word.
The best I can get is a February
19, 2020 article when Patriotic says it’s preparing to buy and restart
operations “as soon as possible”, whatever that means.
What is scary about that article
is that Patriotic is saying it has requested information about the status of
the refinery and has had a good meeting “to establish a schedule for the
inspection of the assets”.
Patriotic is now getting ready to
inspect the condition of its newly acquired assets ie the refinery, now in
March 2020 to have a look at a refinery shut down in November 2018! I leave
readers to calculate how many months to inspect the old wreck, how many months
(or years) to draw up plans to refurbish the old refinery, order new units if
needed, or alternatively junk the old wreck and order a brand new refinery,
test everything and start refining crude.
Just off the top of my head I
would say no way are we going to see a new or refurbished refinery operating by
the end of this year 2020. Let’s see hands for refinery in action by December
2021. Not many, I see. How about December 2022? Oh lord, this is what I mean by
Surely I don’t need to stress
that oil revenue makes up three quarters of the country’s income, and that the
old Petrotrin refinery’s throughput was a big factor in that income. Foreign
exchange supply and reserves today are not a pretty sight in a country that
needs to import so much.
One would have thought that SPEED
would have been the key word for government in moving to repair the hole in the
dyke caused by closure of Trinidad’s only oil refinery in November 2018. One
would think Patriotic would be moving at light speed as well, or at least
talking fast to reassure an anxious public about the pace of progress.
Now I know an oil refinery is a
large and complex plant that can cost in the hundreds of million dollars. I
actually worked in an oil company with a refinery in the seventies, the old
Trintoc that died in 1993. It’s not exactly rocket science to run one. Trinidad
has been in this refinery business for a long long time.
One of the sellers is the Prios
group at https://priosgroup.com/products/entire-oil-refineries/ They have a range of oil
refineries for sale, including one of 100,000 barrels per day throughput,
incidentally just the throughput of the old Petrotrin refinery, at
And here is a 200,000 barrel per
day refinery, dismantled and ready for sale, which can be bought this month,
shipped to Trinidad and be ready to run by the end of this year, no joke.
Prios doesn’t give asking prices for
these refineries. But these are used refineries, relatively small in size, and
should not cost anything like the $1 billion US commonly touted as a baseline
for a new refinery. I would guess way less than $400 million for the 100,000
barrel a day refinery, which is all Trinidad needs. The advantage of buying a
used refinery is that you get the whole thing complete right away, and only
have to ship it over and reassemble it in short order.
Yes this may sound like a crazy
idea from an armchair amateur commentator. But what is Patriotic Energies doing
and saying that is better?