Former Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago Kevin Ramnarine says the communities in direct proximity to Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre refinery stand to lose the most with the shutting down of the facility which will have a ripple effect across the country.
Further, he is of the view that the needed expertise to turn Petrotrin’s troubled operations around exists in the twin island republic.
Ramnarine was speaking at the time on a televised programme on Tuesday morning in Trinidad following news of the decision to close the operations of the refinery.
“If the Government decides it is closing the refinery, what is the impact on the economy?” he asked. “We all agree that Petrotrin has to be driven to efficiency, has to be profitable, cannot be a burden to Trinidad and Tobago and no Government guarantee to refinance the debt. But there is another side that we have to look at now…what is the impact of closing the refinery?” he asked.
Ramnarine said that in addition to the several communities surrounding the refinery feeling the economic fallout, there could be environmental issues with decommissioning of the facility.
“All those communities in the almost fence-line proximity of the refinery have some direct relationship to the refinery. Then there are the hundreds of contractors, hundreds of service companies all depend on what is happening in the refinery for their work,” he said.
Ramnarine pointed out that Petrotrin still has a lot of acreage under its governance and that is where they can increase oil production and make money. He is of the view that there are people in Trinidad with demonstrated competency who can work with Petrotrin to make the upstream operations very viable. Touching on what needs to happen for the company to get out of its debt dilemma, Ramnarine said that the banks and overseas bondholders must be convinced that the company has a plan to turn its fortunes around. “Nobody is going to lend money to somebody who they feel can’t repay,” he said.
He noted too that there continue to be issues of reliability in the operations of the refinery and this has contributed to it being uncompetitive. “The level of reliability in the refinery does not really help because they have had a lot of unplanned outages in the refinery,” he said.
The former energy minister also pointed out that the subsidy on fuel the country currently enjoys could be in jeopardy with the closure of the refinery. A hike in fuel price would serve to drive up the cost of goods and services across the board.
Industry watchers in the region are paying keen attention to the developments in Trinidad and Tobago even as some continue their calls for Guyana to venture into establishing a refinery.