FORMER People's Partnership energy minister Kevin Ramnarine has congratulated the Prime Minister in staying the course on the Dragon gas deal between TT and Venezuela and estimates that the first gas will be pumped within three to four years.
Ramnarine spoke with Newsday on Wednesday, one day after Dr Rowley announced that the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) granted TT a waiver on sanctions imposed on Venezuela, allowing TT to extract gas from the South American country.
Ramnarine said the real victory is that the two-year license is just the beginning of possibly a longer agreement where TT can have years of a proven and reliable source of natural gas.
“The question that everybody wants to know is when is this gas going to arrive in Trinidad Tobago? I have said, all things being equal, three to four years. I would say three and a half years. A lot of things have to happen between now and then.
"One is the commercial arrangement between Shell, the National Gas Company (NGC) and the Venezuelan government and that in itself will take time to negotiate.”
Ramnarine added that getting a project to a final investment decision is also another time-consuming aspect that could take close to four years.
His three-to-four year estimation is based on everything falling into place as this deal has been some 20 years in the making, with deceased prime minister Patrick Manning beginning talks with deceased Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. He pointed out that Venezuela is yet to comment on the deal.
“It's a step in the right direction for TT. It means that it is taking us into a new phase of our energy sector where we go from an energy sector based on natural gas that was produced within our geographic borders, to one where we import natural gas via pipelines from from Venezuela. We have to consider how we derive the maximum benefits from that arrangement," Ramnarine said.
He added that over the past 12 years, the country has seen depleting gas reserves creating an “existential crisis” for companies in the energy sector such as Point Lisas resulting in the closure of Train One at Atlantic LNG.
On Rowley's revelation on Tuesday that TT had asked for a ten-year license but was only given two years, Ramnarine suspects this was the USA being cautious in lifting sanctions against Venezuela.
The two-year license, Ramnarine suspects, may persuade Venezuela to move in the direction that the US wants regarding dialogue between the Nicolas Maduro government and the Opposition and possibly fresh elections.