Khan: Fuel cover for 20 days after Petrotrin refinery closes

Date: 
Thursday, September 27, 2018 - 10:15

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

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