Shell TT has made its first substantial public statement about the Dragon gas deal, saying there is “still a lot to be done.”
The company is one of the three key commercial partners in the deal, along with the National Gas Company (NGC) and Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA.
Shell is also supposed to be putting up the money to construct the US$1 billion pipeline that will connect the Dragon gas field, in Venezuela’s waters, to the Hibiscus platform off the north coast of TT.
Giving the company’s upstream energy outlook, Shell TT’s general manager for non-operated venture – Atlantic, Jenna Joseph, did not say much in terms of details on the outlook for the project.
Last August, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and embattled incumbent Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro also signed a term-sheet agreement at that same ceremony. It is unclear what is the status of the final commercial agreement.
Joseph acknowledged the deal as a positive step to reversing the country’s current gas fortunes.
“We are aware this is just one step in a what must be series of steps and there is still much to be done to (make) the Dragon deal a reality,” she said.
Joseph said the company cannot ignore the severity of what is happening in Venezuela, but it is closely monitoring the events and hopes it can be resolved peacefully. The company’s priority, she said, was that of its colleagues currently in Venezuela. The company will also continue to comply with all applicable laws and exchange controls.
Political turmoil in Venezuela continues, as Maduro faces a challenge from Juan Guaido, the president of the National Assembly and now, self-declared interim president of the country, who has called for fresh elections.
Just last week, the US placed sanctions on PDVSA, restricting the Maduro regime’s access to at least US$18 billion in PDVSA assets. While Government has said it is still evaluating how TT might be affected by the sanctions, Newsday understands that the sanctions could affect TT and Dragon if the deal is in any way routed through the US or any US-based financial institution.
Shell’s update on the deal is somewhat contrary to Government’s optimistic projections. On Monday, in his feature address at the Energy Conference’s opening ceremony, the Prime Minister factored in the potential output from Dragon into its natural gas production outlook up to 2023. Government has previously said it hopes for first gas from Dragon by 2021.
Also on Monday, during a brief media interview after touring the conference Dr Rowley chastised the media, saying he felt insulted when asked about the status of the Dragon deal. "We have a heads-of-government agreement between TT and Venezuela. You people in the media – and there are some ne’er-do-wells in TT – have been making this appear as though it is something personal between (Nicolas) Maduro and me and I think you all are insulting me as Prime Minister of TT and insulting your country. This is not a personal matter.”