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Trinidad oil fields running low - Petrotrin deputised to find new supplies

Published:Wednesday | February 10, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Linda Hutchinson-Jafar, Business Writer

Petrotrin headquarters, Trinidad. - File

Trinidad and Tobago's state-owned integrated energy company Petrotrin has been given a mandate by the government to boost oil production volumes, marking a renewed bid to reverse at least some of the decline that has set in over the last three decades.

The country's oil production stands at 110,000 barrels per day (BPD), compared to natural gas, which skyrocketed to 700,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day (boed), positioning the twin-island as a major exporter of liquefied natural gas.

"Forecasts are that on a do-nothing basis, the country's oil production will decline to less than 80,000 barrels of oil per day by the year 2020," Energy Minister Conrad Enill said.

Petrotrin controls some 75 per cent of the country's oil reserves through its onshore and offshore fields, covering a gross 2.53 million acres, plus net acreage or net interest in joint venture deals which totals 825,080 acres.

The energy company is also a partner in 21 onshore and offshore joint ventures in different blocks or fields throughout Trinidad.

In 1978, Trinidad, a mature hydrocarbon province which has been producing oil for over a century, reached its highest average daily production of 229,589 barrels per day. In 2008, that average fell to 115,889 barrels - a near 50 per cent decline over the three decades.

Petrotrin's average crude pro-duction was 49,261 bpd in 2008, while BHP Billiton Trinidad and Tobago saw oil production from its Greater Angostura field plunge from 50,542 bpd four years ago to 14,870 bpd last August.

Other companies, including BP Trinidad and Tobago and EOG Resources, also produce oil on a smaller scale.

Equity share of crude oil and gas production from joint ventures equalled 33.7 per cent of total production for 2008.

Balanced mix preferred

But Enill said the government would prefer a mix that is more balanced.

"We believe that Petrotrin has an important role to play in delivering on this objective and we have challenged its leadership to organise in such a way as to support this requirement for increases in oil production. Petrotrin, in response, has begun to deliver on this mandate," he said at an energy conference in Port-of-Spain last week.

Petrotrin signed new 10-year sub-licence agreements with five local contractors to explore for oil and gas in seven onshore fields.

President Kenneth Allum said some of the fields are remotely located, limiting drilling, and have generally received less focus than those within Petrotrin's main-stream areas.

However, he said the fields had "significant remaining potential".

"We are cautiously anticipating a production increase in the first year of at least 200 bopd per field. This should produce, of course, a total increase of 1,400 bopd for all seven fields. This would translate into increased indigenous crude supply for our Pointe-a-Pierre refinery," he said.

"Given current favourable prices which are slowly but surely climbing, we are anxious to increase the supply of equity crude oil and gas to our Pointe-a-Pierre refinery," Allum added.

Petrotrin will do a 3D seismic survey of its assets in the North West District and APIs Oropouche Farmout area of South Trinidad, starting this month and ending in December.

The survey is intended to guide the future exploration on land and identification of more oil-drilling locations.

Regarding heavy oil, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Energy, Leroy Mayers, said companies have not been able to successfully exploit these resources due to the operating environment and technological challenges.

"Therefore, special incentives are to be developed to facilitate the production of our heavy oil reserves," he said.

Trinidad estimates that there are 100 million barrels of oil to be produced in the on-shore area.

The energy sector accounted for about 48 per cent of GDP in 2009.