OWTU head Ancel Roget said his union’s Patriotic Energy and Technologies Company has not sought any time extension in its negotiations to buy Pointe-a-Pierre refinery, in apparent contrast to recent remarks by the Prime Minister.
On Wednesday Dr Rowley told the House of Representatives, “There is some element of delay involved but we can’t go faster than Patriotic is prepared to go...So if Patriotic has asked for some additional information in this review of the plant, that’s just part of the process.”
Finance Minister Colm Imbert on September 20, 2019, gave Patriotic a month to spell out its US$700 million business plan.
Roget told Newsday Patriotic has long been ready to inspect the refinery but has been delayed by having to wait for the Ministry of Energy’s nod.
“We did not request any extension nor any additional information.”
He justified Patriotic’s call to visit the refinery next week with a team of experts by saying the plant has been down for a year and its condition now needs to be seen.
“If you buy a motor vehicle, you would inspect it, especially if it has been down for a year.”
Roget blamed the ministry for a delay since October 2019 in a meeting between a Patriotic team and a ministry team which occurred on January 15.
“We have our financiers. Everybody’s ready. But they did not get their act together. We did not ask for extra time but were always ready to inspect the assets consistent with the agreement we had.”
Asked if he expected the refinery’s value to have fallen over the past year of non-use, Roget said, “I can’t say. But if you were buying a car one that was down for a year, you would first check that its radiator, starter and battery were working.
“Electronics, pumps and turbines in the refinery all need regular servicing, which over the year they did not get. If anyone believes you should buy a car without first inspecting it, please send them by me as I have ten cars to sell to them.
“We will not purchase unless we have made a thorough inspection of assets.”
Again insisting Patriotic had not requested more time to mull the deal, he said, for the past three weeks, Patriotic has stood ready to inspect the refinery.
Newsday asked why was an inspection now needed, despite Patriotic having seen details of the refinery in its data-room, presumably simulations.
Roget replied, “You can give me a manual and all the information, but I now have to check out the vehicle, and push in the key.
“The data-room refers to when the assets were in operation, but do you know what is a refinery? People don’t know what we are dealing with. You have to now reconcile what the data room says with what the actual physical condition is.”
Newsday asked if Patriotic had met the month deadline set by Imbert last September to send in its business plan. Roget replied yes.
“We provided all that. As we satisfied all those requirements we should now get a physical inspection of assets. We met on January 15 and agreed on a process going forward and to have a thorough inspection of the assets. We are ready to have this. We are not buying cat in bag.”
Roget said Imbert’s one-month deadline had been for Patriotic to reply to a ten-point list of queries but not to yet pay for the refinery.
“Patriotic responded in that time-frame, satisfying all ten points.”
Asked about a March deadline to strike a deal, Roget replied, “We would like the earliest deadline to close the acquisition process but it all depends on us getting access to see the refinery.”
Newsday asked if he foresaw a bright future for the refinery, given the southern Caribbean’s oil boom (in Guyana and soon Suriname.)
“We have done our homework to operate it in a most efficient and viable manner. We are willing and prepared to effect the start of this refinery. No foreigner will repatriate any proceedings of this plant. The country will benefit. We will do the turnaround.”
Newsday pressed on Guyana and Suriname.
“I’ll not comment on that. All requirements including feedstock have been well taken care of and well thought out.”
Roget said Patriotic wanted to fast-track the process of negotiations but has had to wait on the ministry whose proverbial wheels turned very slowly. Yet he also reiterated the need to now inspect the refinery.
“When you go to the doctor, he has to sound you out, and doesn’t give you medicine just so.”
Roget said Patriotic now has a world-class team of experts, both local and foreign, standing ready to inspect the refinery. He again said a delay from October 2019 to January 15 was due to the ministry. “After the January inspection, we agreed to set in place teams to do the inspection but it did not happen. The ministry was the cause of the delay.” Asked when Patriotic will inspect the refinery next week, he said Patriotic will soon meet to plan this visit.
Newsday was unable to get a response from Energy Minister Franklin Khan.