Trinidad and Tobago issued a request for proposals for the sale of its mothballed 160,000 b/d refinery, but has cancelled the sale of its recently created fuel trading company.
Energy minister Franklin Khan ordered Paria Fuel Trading to withdraw a recent request for proposals, saying it had been “inadvertently” issued by the company’s chairman Wilfred Espinet.
In announcing the sale of the fuel importer, Espinet said there is “no strategic reason” for the government to keep the assets “as long as the country’s fuel security and competitiveness in fuel pricing could be guaranteed.”
But amid indications of deepening confusion in the country’s newly restructured energy sector, Khan said Paria Fuel Trading would not be sold because it is “a strategic state asset” that plays a critical role in ensuring fuel supply.
Paria, which was created in November 2018 when the government closed the money-losing Pointe-a-Pierre refinery, has been importing around 25,000 b/d of products to meet domestic demand.
While in operation, the refinery supplied domestic and neighboring island markets with gasoline, kerosene, aviation fuel, diesel, fuel oil and LPG.
The government hopes to select a successful bidder for the refinery by the end of June 2019, prime minister Keith Rowley has said, adding that some 50 parties have expressed interest.
The refinery labor union – OWTU – has been critical of the decision to close the plant, and has said it has potential partners with which it could operate the facility.
One factor that would be determined by any new refinery operator is access to feedstock amid declining domestic output, an energy ministry official said.
The refinery was not viable as it had to depend on increasing volumes of imported crude, the government said in August 2018 when it announced its intention to close the century-old facility.
Trinidad last imported crude for the refinery in October 2018 at 15,409 b/d, 77pc less than September. Imports were mainly Russian Urals, Gabon’s Oguendjo, Brazil’s Lula and Roncador, and Colombia’s Vasconia.
Crude that was being produced domestically by disbanded state company Petrotrin is now exported by new state entity Heritage Petroleum.
Trinidad’s crude production averaged 64,895 b/d in 2018, according to energy ministry data.