Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet is assuring there are adequate fuel supplies to meet the needs of the population and there is no need to panic. The Petrotrin refinery, he said, will continue to produce for some time yet and in addition, he said short-term arrangements will be entered into to ensure continuity in supplies.
Speaking to the T&T Guardian on the issue yesterday, Espinet assured there is no mad scramble to find a supplier for fuel when the Petrotrin refinery is shut down.
He said, “We have 42 suppliers to Petrotrin, we have narrowed it down to 13. We have gone out to them to do it on a short-term arrangement while we continue to develop a longer term relationship, so there is no question about supply.”
On Wednesday, Energy Minister Franklin Khan told Parliament that there will be a 20-day fuel supply from the date of the closure of the refinery.
“The refinery will be closed on a phased basis during the month of October. Upon its closure there will be a twenty day supply of fuels from stock to start with,” Khan said.
Khan sought to assure there will be no disruption in supply, adding steps were being put in place for the importation of supplies from international traders.
“Requests for proposals from 13 reputable international suppliers are currently out, we don’t forecast any disruption in the supply to the travelling public,” Khan said.
Yesterday, Espinet said the 20-day supply will be twice what the company normally has in stock.
“So for information purposes, there will be double the supply that is normal in the market. Petrotrin normally keeps a ten-day supply, so we are stepping it up to twenty days,” he said.
Espinet said it is not new for Petrotrin to be importing fuel.
“Let me make it clear to you, Petrotrin has in the past imported fuel into the country several times and that happens when you have a problem with the plant and cannot meet supply.”
He also said there is ready access to fuel.
“Every single detail has been worked out on this already, so don’t go scaring the people. The scare-mongering is not worth it.”
Espinet also assured that “there is no mad scramble, there is no need to be concerned, there are adequate stocks on hand.”
He said although the transition begins on October first the refinery will still be producing fuel, “and even if there is a disruption we have things in place to cover disruptions.”
Energy Expert Anthony Paul also told the T&T Guardian there is no need to worry about the 20-day fuel supply. “Twenty days is a number, you could have a tanker come in and bring product. So if you have enough storage you can have a tanker coming and filling every 15 days or so. That is not necessarily a problem.”
In any event, he said Petrotrin will continue to produce fuel for some time.
“So they have two to three months to put contracts in place for the supply of product and ensure that supplies are topped up, I am not worried about that.”
His concern, he said, is the procurement process.
“Who gets the licence? Licensing is where the oversight comes in. Under the law, these suppliers are meant to be licenced.”
However, he said the Ministry of Energy does not have a licensing regime.
“It is notorious in not licensing anybody.”
Paul said while the Public Procurement Act is not yet fully proclaimed and implemented “I worry at how the procurement rules tend to be ignored by the Government. The Central Tenders’ Board Act still applies.”
Petroleum dealers are expected to meet today to discuss issues which arise with the closure of the refinery and the importation of fuel.
Currently, dealers get 17 cents on every litre of super gasoline sold and 14 cents on diesel and regular gasoline. They are uncertain whether their margins will change when the country starts importing fuel.
Speaking to the T&T Guardian, Petroleum Dealers’ Association president Rabindranath Naraynsingh said, “The industry is controlled by the Ministry of Energy. The Minister, in consultation with the Minister of Finance, has the sole prerogative to set the price.”
Up to yesterday, he said there had been no discussion with the dealers on any of the issues which need to be addressed.
Naraynsingh said after the dealers meet they will speak with the media on some ideas they have and some of the concerns which need to be addressed.