Leladharsingh hopes refinery will restart

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Confederation of Business Chambers co-ordinator Jai Leladharsingh –

CONFEDERATION of Regional Business Chambers (CRBC) co-ordinator Jai Leladharsingh remains hopeful that the former Petrotrin oil refinery in Pointe-a-Pierre could be restarted in some form or fashion in the future.

He expressed this hope during an online symposium hosted by the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) on Monday.

Petrotrin was closed on November 30, 2018.

Leladharsingh said five years later, the population has no idea whether the refinery will ever be restarted, in whole or in part.

He added that the only expression of interest in it that he had heard was from the OWTU’s company Patriotic Energies and Technologies Co Ltd.

At Labour Day celebrations in Fyzabad last June, union president general Ancel Roget said the union remains interested in acquiring the refinery.

In February 2021, Government rejected Patriotic’s third bid for the refinery. At a post-Cabinet media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the company had only made proposals, but no firm, binding offer.

“Cabinet felt we could not proceed with this matter and we would have to revert to the decision we made previously (that is, the open market).”

Imbert said Patriotic offered two options, neither of which seemed palatable.

The first was to give Patriotic huge tax-credits saleable to companies like BP to reduce their tax liability, while he likened the second option to a state-funded hire-purchase deal.

Option one, he said, was for the Government to issue Patriotic some US$750 million in tax credits, divisible and transferable, saleable to any third party.

Previous bids by Patriotic were rejected in January 2021 and in October 2020.

Leladharsingh hoped Government would get an investor for the refinery, preferably a local one.

“We need a clarity of direction.”

The Prime Minister has publicly said Government would listen to offers for the refinery.

At a news conference on November 20, Dr Rowley said the refinery was mentioned in discussions at the inaugural Caricom-Saudi Arabia summit in Riyadh earlier this month. He did not give any further details.

Leladharsingh acknowledged earlier comments in the symposium by UWI economist Dr Marlene Attzs about Petrotrin having a socio-economic impact on several fenceline communities in South Trinidad. He said the company provided indirect work for many people in those communities, such as cutting grass and cleaning drains.

Leladharsingh also said Petrotrin’s closure also hit the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector hard. He said SMEs around the fenceline communities felt the impact first, as they lost customers who were either directly or indirectly employed at Petrotrin.

Leladharsingh also said businesses in malls in north, central and east Trinidad later felt the impact because former Petrotrin workers also did business with them.

He hoped that if the refinery ever restarted, Government, business and the OWTU would be able to manage the new arrangement.

Energy analyst Anthony Paul said the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy necessitated a change with respect to any future use of the refinery.

He added that change involves proper transparency and accountability by all the players involved.

Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) political leader David Abdulah said no study had been done to determine whether or not Petrotrin should be closed down.

Abdulah reiterated his view that Petrotrin was profitable before its closure.