Trinidad and Tobago has been an iconic center for delivering hydrocarbons to the international market for several decades.  Most recently it has been known for its production of LNG, Ammonia and Methane.   Many of the challenges and concerns of late have been related to continuous gas supply, the increasingly competitive global market, and of course, low oil and gas commodity prices.

While looking beyond today’s challenges at the future potential for the Eastern Caribbean and associatively Trinidad and Tobago, one cannot help but get excited.  Over the last few years there has been a significant amount of 3D seismic data acquisition in the region.  Of particular note are the programs managed by BHP Billiton - offshore Trinidad and ExxonMobil - offshore Guyana (Figure 1).  To put both of these programs into perspective, the regions surveyed were both in excess of 20,000 square kilometers, which would equate to the land mass of the Hawaii islands.

Figure 1 – Examples of deepwater activity in Eastern Caribbean

The 3D seismic data allows geologists and reservoir engineers to analyze the underlying geology of the area and identify potential hydrocarbon reservoirs.  The next step is to “prove up” the potential hydrocarbon source by exploration drilling; this is where we are currently.  ExxonMobil had a successful discovery in Guyana with the Liza 1 exploration well in 2015, and are planning subsequent drilling this year.  Likewise BHP Billiton is planning two exploration wells in 2016 with potential expansion of the program to a third exploration well.  If the exploration confirms the volume of hydrocarbons that everyone is hoping for, Deepwater Eastern Caribbean could become the next new hydrocarbon basin.

Assuming that this potential becomes a reality and deepwater Eastern Caribbean is established, what would this mean?  From my perspective the opportunities are limitless, with two key fundamental transformations (i) Eastern Caribbean islands now have an international marketable resource that can generate revenue and jobs for the Eastern Caribbean nations and (ii) There will be resource and/or fossil fuels available to fulfill the energy needs of the Eastern Caribbean islands.

The challenges in the near term are how to prepare for and ensure a safe and responsible approach to accessing these resources that benefit the Eastern Caribbean nations, and also ensure that the Eastern Caribbean attracts the capital investment and focus over and above other international hydrocarbon centers.

Some aspects that need to be addressed are:

-          Economical project development solutions to extract the hydrocarbons from the deepwater and safely transport them to market

-          Local capability, skills, and knowledge to support the developments – the focus being on what is realistic and achievable

-          Expanded local infrastructure to support the construction and operation of the new fields

-          Government policies and energy plans to guide the production and development

In conclusion, looking at the Eastern Caribbean and the current activity, one cannot help but get excited about the future.  Fossil fuels will continue to be a key component of the energy needs of the world. The potential for the region to establish itself as a responsible international exporter of hydrocarbons is extremely high.  This will be transformational for the Eastern Caribbean.