Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 17th 2017 Contents viewpoint A21
Monday, April 17, 2017 guardian.co.tt
T&T needs oil master plan
As a coverall wearer who worked
in the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery
in my youthful days and later in the
oil and gas producing fields in Forest
Reserve as a petroleum engineer for
Texaco Trinidad Inc, permit me to
share a few thoughts.
I write in response to an April
14, 2017 article published in your
newspaper regarding the topic "T&T
needs oil master plan." In the article,
Mr Wilson Lalla, a person whom I
have known and have great respect
for, made statements that I think
His statement "Petrotrin does
not have the capital reserves or the
operational efficiency to optimise
oil recovery" is so blatantly true that
it hurts. As engineers in those early
large-volume oil producing years,
we took pride in operational effi-
ciency and the economic downhole
intervention in all wells.
Mr Lalla spoke of "4,000 idle
wells which could be brought back
into production"; that is his per-
spective as an accomplished geolo-
gist. As an engineer with knowledge
of those wells, I would be surprised
if more than six per cent of those
4,000 wells could be economically
revived. To do so would involve the
infusion of large investment cap-
ital and require highly skilled and
knowledgeable engineers. These
engineers must not only know how
to analyse and interpret well perfor-
mances but also translate these in-
terpretations with suggested course
of actions into dollars and cents.
Every recommendation by these en-
gineers must be profit focused.
In the article Mr Lalla stated that
"oil production dropped drastically
from 230,000 barrels of oil per day
in 1978 to 60,000 barrels last year."
So true. This drastic decline can be
explained in part by natural oil and
gas reservoir decline, and the effect
of catastrophic mechanical failure
due to wellbore collapse incurred
from sand production.
This situation of significant pro-
duction decline at Petrotrin was
foreseen decades ago. You have
production losses from aged well-
bores, new wells not being drilled in
sufficient numbers to maintain oil
production, and natural reservoir
depletion. The key question is, are
these noted declines excessive when
taking all of the above factors into
account? Local petroleum engineers
would be the best ones to answer
this soul searching question.
In the said article, a suggested
master plan for the T&T oil industry
was "oil extraction from TAR sands."
Brilliant thought but unfortunately
the lifting costs to do so would eat
your economics alive. Mr Lalla's
statement that "the Government
must create opportunities and in-
centives for investment and small
companies given the opportunity to
develop wells that are nearing their
economically useful lives," is spot
on. There are a few local companies
using highly experienced local field
and engineering personnel that have
seen economic successes.
Yes, a master plan is sorely need-
ed, but it should be one that focuses
on fully developing the engineering
expertise of locals to deal with the
challenges of economically pro-
ducing oil and gas in Trinidad and
In addition, management person-
nel and key decision makers should
be de-politicised to guarantee cost
effective best industry practices are
enforced at Petrotrin.
Rather than simply pushing for
personnel reduction, I think the
focus should be to ensure an annu-
al infusion of quality trained and
dedicated local young men and
women into the workforce. Dollars
invested in the oil and gas industry
for Student Apprentice and Student
Technician programmes would also
safeguard the industry's future.
Ancel Roget, in response to a
multinational's decision to
locate certain activities elsewhere,
was that the company could take
its oil rig and go.
We have so many armchair en-
ergy construction experts in T&T
it is not funny. How many of you
has had any oilfield experience?
Who is Roget? Let us call him a
trade unionist. The role of a trade
union is to look after the interests
of their members. They can work
in partnership with the employers.
What really is Roget's crime?
You tell me. What is he guilty of?
All the arm chair critics, how
much oilfield experience do they
have? How many of you criti-
cal adults have ever worn safety
shoes, coveralls and hard hat?
Successfully completed a BOSIET?
Have you ever worked with La
Brea Crude and compared it with
East Coast Crude? How many of
you have spent 28 days away from
home in the Atlantic and the only
way you knew it was Sunday was
because of the callaloo? Everybody
is an expert.
Talk is cheap. This is not about
slavery and indentureship being
over but the continued existence
of the ''House slaves and Arka-
Roget has nothing to be apolo-
getic for. Is he responsible for the
present price of oil? Or the con-
tinued failure of Petrotrin under
different successive regimes?
What did he do wrong? Speak
the truth? Protect labour against
victimisation and injustice? Roget
was just doing his job; that should
be commended not criticised in
this day and age. Roget has proven
to be a leader, not a supervisor or
manager. We need more like him.
The reason we lost the job was
because of competitiveness, plain
talk bad manners.
Keep the faith.
We shall overcome someday
Depriving locals of
Ancel Roget's statement
"take your rig and go"
translates into "take your jobs
The consequence of that action
is to deny the current generation
of our young energy profession-
als and craftsmen the opportuni-
ty to benefit from the technology
transfer that comes with the
construction of an offshore hy-
drocarbon processing platform--a
source of vast learning opportu-
nities and best practices in the
industry for all disciplines.
For those of us energy profes-
sionals who started our careers
in the early 1970's with Texaco,
Shell, Amoco and Tesoro we ben-
efited from that opportunity, and
I like many of my peers, lapped
up all we could learn from our ex-
patriate bosses. Forty-plus years
later I can look back and say we
were the lucky ones who bene-
fited from being exposed to the
multinationals who invested in
our training and development.
So, the significance of losing
the opportunity to build the next
platform in Trinidad is to deprive
our young energy professionals
of being exposed to excellence in
project management, heavy con-
struction and all the other spin-
off disciplines that come with
this kind of major project.
Today in Trinidad and Tobago
any one practising their trade
in the energy sector knows that
BPTT is the bench mark in ex-
cellence when it comes to health,
safety and environmental best
practices, so his rational for "take
your rig and go" is nonsense and
has deprived our young profes-
sionals of a great learning oppor-
Michael P A Charles
Project Engineering Consultant
Palmiste, La Romain
Christian choir members sing during a service at a Church on Easter
Sunday in Jammu, India, yesterday. Christians make up about 2.3 per
cent of India's population of 1.26 billion. AP PHOTO
Mr Lalla's statement that
"the Government must
create opportunities and
incentives for investment
and small companies given
the opportunity to develop
wells that are nearing their
economically useful lives,"
is spot on.
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