As we progress on the journey of confirming the hydrocarbon resources that are currently being targeted in deepwater – Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname amongst others – a key question comes to mind, how do we prepare for the deepwater arena? 

Trinidad and Tobago is already involved in some of the activity associated with drilling programmes in these locations. Through this experience, we are beginning to get a taste of the reality of deepwater and what we may need to do differently to enable successful project delivery. 

For example, a typical dynamic positioned drilling rig, to hold station, will consume a minimum of 500 bbls of diesel per day. In addition, when drilling in places such as Guyana and Suriname these are an estimated two to three day sail from Trinidad. To support a drilling programme with diesel from Trinidad would require dedicated vessels with capacities up to 12,000 bbls, the actual solution being dependent upon vessel availability. To be successful in the provision of diesel to the drilling operation, there must be constant management of the local supply in Trinidad and Tobago, a transportation logistics plan to continuously transport the fuel to site, and regular dialogue from the drilling rig on consumption and delivery needs. This is just one element of a total programme to support a deepwater development, but it helps to articulate some of the step changes in capacity and thinking that need to happen in order to be successful. 

How do we get there? What should we be doing now to be ready for the future? The good news is that we have time to prepare. Typical cycle time for deepwater developments from lease block acquisition to production ranges from seven to 10 years. For the current developments, we are in year three or so, and it is likely that since these are fairly new unchartered basins that the timeline could be longer. 

The challenge is that we must not be complacent in taking action to prepare. To ensure that we are focusing on the right areas and making the right investments, the first step is to get alignment between the development needs and how these are met either locally or internationally. Once we have a plan which aligns these needs, we can determine the next steps and also confirm whether we truly have enough time to prepare.

What the future looks like for the various nations that are close to these deepwater basins is very dependent on their current and desired end state in this sector. For example, Trinidad and Tobago has a very mature hydrocarbon sector with many decades of experience in supporting the current developments. To transition into providing services for deepwater developments is considered to be within its capability for specific elements. However, it would seem feasible to me to expand some of the existing facilities such that they would have the capability to coordinate a full scale system integration test of various subsea components to confirm that everything works and can be installed together, before moving offshore to actual implementation. 

Other areas that have potential for developing support to the deepwater arena include: 

• Equipping personnel and facilities with the skills and capacity to fabricate and assemble subsea structures 

• Developing capabilities of existing facilities for subsea system integration testing (SIT) 

• Developing local capability to operate and monitor deepwater and associated subsea systems 

• Building in-country engineering and asset integrity expertise for deepwater developments 

• Expanding on existing port and key side facilities to support activities such as receiving, offloading, and loading of line pipe, subsea structures, umbilical reels, etc. 

In conclusion, we need to start to prepare for deepwater activities. The good news is that there is time to get ready. However, in order to be successful, it is apparent that we need to have a deepwater alignment plan. In my opinion, this should be addressed in the near term with a sense of urgency to ensure our preparedness when the time comes. As I have said before, these are very exciting times for the region with fantastic potential. The key is to be deliberate, as we are competing globally for investment and we need to make sure we offer the most commercially attractive projects with the highest likelihood of success.