Upon the closure of Petrotrin’s refinery next month, there will be a 20-day supply of fuel from stock “to start with,” Energy Minister Franklin Khan has assured the travelling public.
“Trust me - I want to give the country the assurance there will be a smooth transition from refinery fuel to imported fuel,” Khan added in Parliament yesterday in reply to Opposition concerns over the fuel supply after the refinery’s closure.
United National Congress’ Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee had asked about it following reports of the refinery’s impending closure on October 1 and subsequent reports it would be done on a phased manner. He asked what strategic steps were being taken to ensure fuel isn’t disrupted in this period.
UNC’s Roodal Moonilal also sought clarification on if the refinery will be closed next Monday or “half closed.”
Khan said, “The answer is no. The transition process starts on October 1. It will be shut down on a phased basis - it’s a process plan. We just do not take off a switch and stop a refinery.”
On fuel supply post-closure, Khan told Lee, “T&T consumes approximately 25,000 barrels of liquid fuels per day or approximately 3.9 million litres, comprising aviation fuel, diesel, super and premiums and small amounts of regular fuel.
“The refinery will be closed on a phased basis during the month of October. Upon its closure, there will be a 20-day supply of fuels from stock to start with. Steps are currently being put in place for the importation of supplies from international traders.
“Requests for Proposals (RFPs) from 13 reputable international suppliers are currently out - we don’t forecast any disruption in the supply to the travelling public.”
Khan added, “Fuel is an internationally traded commodity and is well available on the international market.”
He said there’s no international shortage, so “there’ll be seamless transition.”
Asked by Lee for assurance that the price of fuel won’t increase, Khan replied, “That’s a matter for the Finance Minister.”
Finance Minister Colm Imbert, who delivers the 2019 Budget on Monday, is expected to say whether or not any fuel price hikes will be implemented (as previous Budgets have).
Khan, reiterating a phase closure, as exclusively reported by the T&T Guardian on Monday, said a phased approach was necessary.
“You have to save the plant, secure it, because the plant may come into use later on,” he said.
Opposition UNC MPs chorused, “...Ooooh - for your (PNM’s) partners!”
‘Others’ interested in refinery—PM
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says there is interest, apart from the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), in the refinery.
Rowley yesterday said Government’s position was the refinery would be excised - removed - and become an independent separate entity from Petrotrin business.
“At that stage, it was intended if the OWTU can put a proposal to Government they’ll get first option. That was immediately dismissed by OWTU. But we’re told some interest is being shown now,” Rowley said in response to queries from the Opposition in the House.
He said in response to OWTU correspondence, he’d said if the union could submit a proposal in the context of a serious business plan that can stand rigorous scrutiny, it’ll be treated with dignity and respect like any other.
“They were also told if other proposals are made to the asset’s owner and those proposals are superior, the public interest will prevail,” he added.
On whether Government is entertaining any other proposals besides OWTU’s, Rowley replied, “I’m not aware Petrotrin’s board is in receipt of any other proposals, but I’m aware that there are other persons who might have been indicating they would have an interest in the event the refinery becomes available for consideration.
“A refinery can attract attention from any person anywhere and we’re saying we’re open to seeing what’s available once the asset becomes separated from Petrotrin’s business. So any discussion on this matter is about the refinery as a stand-alone entity.”
Rowley stressed that “excising” of the refinery involves its closure since the heart of the problem - importing and refining crude oil - was there and that would stop when the refinery was “excised”.
He added, “The board has indicated when the importation of crude oil will cease. So it’s quite clear we’re excising the refinery, stopping the importation and refining of other people’s crude. And of course - then, we spoke of no idea of sale, we said ‘opportunity’.
“Whatever that opportunity is - whether it’s sale, lease, supply of crude by a third party, whatever - we’ll look at whatever options are available to us once the refinery is in that state (closed).”
He made it clear it was Government who made the closure decision after Petrotrin’s board presented analyses and made recommendations.
“Those recommendations were accepted by Government and the decision was taken by Government,” he said.
- by Gail Alexander