Trinidad & Tobago’s upstream capital investment levels have been sustained through 2015, despite the slashing of capital investment budgets across the globe. Speaking in Parliament in December 2015, Nicole Olivierre, Trinidad & Tobago’s newly installed Minister of Energy, revealed that investment levels in 2016 were predicted to be in the US$3.0 billion range in 2016, a similar level of 2015. However, given the current market conditions there is no guarantee that investments will continue to flow in the volumes needed to increase gas production back to the level of demand in Trinidad & Tobago.
As Minister Olivierre noted in her contribution to Parliament, the key to increasing Trinidad & Tobago’s current shortages in gas production is increased drilling to bring in new reserves into production. Monitoring future investment decisions from the major multinational companies into upstream gas production is crucial for the future of the Trinidad & Tobago energy industry. There are a number of investment decisions that will be important to monitor over the next few years.
The field that has received the most media coverage and the one that has received a lot of government attention is the massive Loran– Manatee field, straddling the maritime boundary between Trinidad & Tobago and Venezuela. With reserves estimated at over 7 trillion cubic feet (tcf ) this field has the potential to significantly increase overall gas production. This will be especially so if the Venezuelans carry through on their agreement that gas from the Venezuelan side of the field can be exported to Trinidad; just 1.5 tcf of the gas is on the Trinidad & Tobago side with the majority on the Venezuela side. While there has been significant discussion of Loran-Manatee by the respective governments and in the Trinidad & Tobago media, very little has been heard about a potential investment decision from the multinational companies holding the rights to develop the acreage, namely Chevron and BG.
The other cross-border field that has seem some progress in terms of the government to government framework is the much smaller Manakin Cocuina field, estimated to contain around 0.4 tcf of reserves with the majority (66%) on the Trinidad & Tobago side of the boundary. The field was first discovered in the year 2000 in the 5(b) block operated by bpTT. The development of the Juniper project increases the possibility for a decision on the Manakin field, which could be tied back to the Juniper platform.
The bpTT potential development that has received most attention and appears to be most advanced in terms of an investment decision is the Angelin field, with reserves estimates in the region of 1.5 tcf. Interest in developing the field was heightened with the results from bpTT’s ocean bottom cable seismic campaign. Development of the field would involve one normally unmanned platform linked back to Cassia B hub. Public statements earlier this year put a potential date for first gas as soon as 2018, implying an investment decision in the near future.
The other fields that have seen significant work on a development concept prior to an investment decision are Bounty and Endeavour in block 5(c), operated by BG T&T. This block has had a complex history, with the initial discoveries being made by a small independent, Canadian Superior, before BG T&T took control of the block in 2007. An investment decision was originally expected on the 5(c) developments in 2015, but the BG Group conference call with investors at the end of October 2015 indicated that a decision on the project has been pushed back. In their third quarter investor conference call, BG suggested that an investment decision on the 5 (c) fields may require changes to fiscal terms for the blocks.
BG T&T has also been exploring a new prospect in block 5(d) named Lobster, which could potentially be developed in parallel with block 5 (c). According to the Minister’s statement in Parliament BG T&T investment decisions are also pending on further infill drilling in Starfish and Dolphin, and a new potential development named Grenadier.
While BHP Billiton has taken an investment decision on phase III of their greater Angostura development, there is a further field within their block 2 (c), named Howler, on which they have not taken any investment decision. They also have two discovered fields in their 3(a) block, named Ruby and Delaware, for which investment decisions are also pending. The Ruby field is primarily oil, but the Delaware has an estimated 0.5 tcf of gas reserves.
While BHP Billiton, bpTT and BG T&T all have active investment programmes underway and existing marketing contracts, the picture is less clear with Centrica. Block 22, off Tobago’s north coast, has significant gas resources in a number of fields, initially discovered by Petro-Canada in 2007/8. The fields are in moderately deepwater and are reported to be complex, suggesting high development costs.
Centrica conducted significant market and field development studies and were pursuing a development plan that involved the export of compressed natural gas from the fields to Puerto Rico, via a facility at Cove Estate in Tobago. This plan has now been shelved, but there has been no word on an alternative approach to bring the much needed gas to Trinidad.
Centrica is also the operator for the NCMA 4 block, that contains three undeveloped gas fields in shallow waters, namely Iris, Orchard and Jasmine. The status of any development plan or investment decision for these fields is also unclear. Two further blocks operated by Centrica, namely 1(a) and (b), were scheduled to be sold to Trinity, who had plans to fast track development of these shallow fields in the Gulf of Paria for sale into the domestic market. With the collapse of the purchase agreement the future status of these two blocks is also unclear.