Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 5th 2014 Contents A4
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt January 5, 2014
Questions on the findings of the
"Preliminary Investigation into the
Incident"---a document detailing, inter
alia, that state-owned Petrotrin had
failed to implement a full inspection of
its equipment for almost two
decades---were posed to its president
Khalid Hassanali, communications
manager Gillian Friday and the
Minister of Energy, Kevin Ramnarine.
While the minister did not respond
to phone calls, texts or e-mails,
Petrotrin engaged its legal team to
respond to the Guardian's questions.
The answers were included in a
letter sent to the newspaper by the
company's lawyers, Johnson, Camacho
and Singh. The letter said repeatedly
that the report was "privileged" and
confidential and warned, "In the event
that you feel compelled to go ahead
and publish the report completely or
any other information without
verification, it is reasonable to conclude
that you intend to do so in order to
bring Petrotrin into disrepute and
notwithstanding your overriding duty
to verify same."
Yesterday, the company issued a
press release titled "Petrotrin explores
its legal options against Guardian
Media Ltd" in which it said it was
considering "immediate legal action"
against the Guardian.
1. Does poor maintenance mean that
more spills are possible?
Response: At Petrotrin there is a
planned preventative maintenance
programme that requires regular
inspections of our lines and equipment.
At this time, Petrotrin is unable to
conclude that poor maintenance led to
any incident. Investigations are
2. What is Petrotrin's current postion
on the integrity of the equipment?
Response: The equipment integrity
is subject to periodic evaluation and
regular "safety walkdowns" are
conducted. At present, further
inspection is under way.
3. What does "major inspections"
mean? Were minor inspections carried
out? If so, what does that entail?
Response: Inspections may include
defined "major" or "minor" based on
the scope (amount of equipment
covered) and the methodologies
utilised. Inspection includes: ultrasonic
tests for line thickness; visual checks
of the general condition of the line;
visual inspection of the supports;
corrosion on line; leaks on line, valves,
flanges and expansion joints.
4. Is this spill triggering an
immediate check of current assets?
Response: An immediate integrity
check of the entire asset is being
conducted. Our inspection department
has completed an inspection of the
lines in question. There is an ongoing
general condition inspection of the
main viaduct structure and all
5. What is the net worth of 7,453
barrels of oil?
Response: The final quantity of
material spilled is yet to be
determined. The material spilled sells
for approximately US$95 per barrel.
A blanket of oil covers a beach
in the south-western peninsula.
PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH
Two former energy ministers
have confirmed to the Sunday
Guardian that state-owned energy
company Petrotrin must have been
aware of the condition of its ageing
More questions have been raised
about the integrity and maintenance
of Petrotrin's assets after a private,
internal report was made public by
the Guardian yesterday.
The Sunday Guardian learned
that former energy minister Carolyn
Seepersad-Bachan called for an audit
of the entire energy sector, and
specifically Trinmar and Petrotrin,
soon after taking office in 2010.
Seepersad-Bachan, who was
replaced by current Energy Minister
Kevin Ramnarine in a Cabinet
reshuffle in 2011, yesterday con-
firmed that the audit triggered the
Cabinet to develop the first oil spill
A committee was also put togeth-
er to evaluate both Trinmar's and
"The findings described the assets
as ageing back then," Seepersad-
Bachan said in a telephone interview
She said the need to evaluate the
local asset base came after the mas-
sive and damaging BP oil spill off
the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010.
That information was presented
to the management at Petrotrin.
Former energy minister under the
People's National Movement (PNM)
Conrad Enill also confirmed the poor
state of the infrastructure and
pipelines at Petrotrin and said mas-
sive capital cost was needed to
upgrade and replace those. He said
that was one of the main reasons
he did not pursue the exploration
side of the sector and focused instead
"It has always been on the decline
and would have taken a massive
injection of capital investment to
bring the infrastructure up to date,"
Enill said, in a telephone interview
In discussing the spill and both
the company's and Ramnarine's
subsequent response, Enill said this
was the "exact reason" he did not
push Petrotrin into oil.
"There were two major risks, one
being HSSE and the other involved
the risk to people and the environ-
ment," he said.
He said after the reality of the
Petro Caribe initiative, T&T was not
getting the same profit margins with
the then existing plant configura-
"We needed to increase the capa-
bility of the refinery so that we could
make more money from the same
amount of product," he said.
He maintained that oil and explo-
ration should always remain the
remit of private companies and not
"Petrotrin should have remained
focused on optimising the refinery
capability," Enill said.
sabotage or being shielded?
While Seepersad-Bachan steered
clear of the issue of sabotage, Enill
said it was also a major concern
under his tenure.
"That was a issue and that has
not changed," he said.
"But this Government came in
with 28 seats---who does not like
them enough to sabotage them?
There are no major outstanding
negotiations, no one is looking for
leverage, so sabotage as a reason not
The possibility of sabotage has
been raised by Trinity Exploration
and Production, Petrotrin's joint
venture partner, but was dismissed
by Oilfields Workers' Trade Union
boss Ancel Roget.
Roget, in an interview on Friday,
questioned why Ramnarine con-
tinued to speak so highly of that
one company despite the fact that
at least two of the 11 spills were
found to be originatiing from its
local assets. The company claimed
the spillage was the result of sab-
otage and not through any fault of
"Is he protecting them for a rea-
son?" Roget asked.
Former energy ministers confirm:
Petrotrin knew about
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