Young: OFAC nod for new Venezuela/Trinidad and Tobago gas field

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Energy Minister Stuart Young. – File photo

ENERGY Minister Stuart Young said the US Government has awarded Trinidad and Tobago a licence to seek natural gas in the TT/Venezuela cross-border Cocuina-Manakin gas field which he said contains at least one trillion cubic feet (tcf) of proven gas, with more reserves also quite possible there.

The field straddles the maritime boundary off the south east coast of Trinidad.

At a briefing at his office on Wednesday May 29, Young said the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) had just awarded a two-year licence for bpTT and the National Gas Company (NGC) to exploit gas in the Venezuelan part of the Cocuina-Manakin gas field.

He said two-thirds of the gas in the field in is TT waters (Manakin, in the bpTT-run Block 5b), while one-third is in Venezuelan territory (Cocuina).

This is the second OFAC licence held by TT to exploit gas in Venezuelan waters, Young related.

The first was a two-year OFAC licence (lasting until October 31, 2025) for the Dragon gas field for which TT has a 30-year agreement with Venezuela.

Young used the occasion to chide political and journalistic naysayers and assured he was pressing on to secure TT’s energy future.

Guyana-based publication, Oil Now, in March said TT and Venezuela had signed a Manakin-Cocuina unitisation deal in 2015, although subject to US sanctions.

Young said last January, he and a top official from bp had visited the White House, joined by the Prime Minister who met US vice president Kamala Harris, assisted by US envoy Candace Bond.

Then in April very quietly attorneys had filed a request for an OFAC licence for Cocuina-Manakin, he related, followed by good news on May 28.

“TT has received a specific licence from US Government OFAC for the pursuit, production and export of gas from the Cocuina-Manakin field to TT and it remains the same terms similar to Dragon that we can pay in fiat currency, in US currency etcetera. In other words they have given us the go-ahead.”

He said the two-year licence lasts to May 31, 2026.

“These are the benefits and tangible returns that you the citizen do get from these trips and travels. We are always out there working, and certainly bringing home the results of that hard work.”

He said the Cocuina-Manakin was a milestone in a difficult world, noting that many, many energy firms had sought OFAC licences to work in Venezuela but not been granted.

In the question session, he said the possibilities of the Dragon deal must be added to the prospects of the 10 tcf Loran-Manatee field.

While TT now struggled to produce 2.6-2.7 billion cubic feet (bcf) per year, he said that in the years 2026-2030 gas production would go up.

Asked for a time line for first gas at Cocuina-Manakin, given the slowness of the Loran-Manatee deal, he said things remain to be negotiated, but said he had never seen discussions move so fast.

Newsday asked if the Cocuina-Manakin deal could be hurt by the upcoming Venezuelan and US elections (in July and November respectively).

He said personally he has no worries, noting the two countries had hundreds of years deciding to run themselves. “Whatever the outcome of the US election, I expect business to continue.”

Asked about his recent launch of the 2024 shallow-water bid round, he said the four blocks which companies had bid on were allocated near existing infrastructure. He said bpTT president David Campbell had only had good things to say about that bid-round. He said the Manatee field would be a big part of TT’s success that is expected in 2026-2027.

Earlier, Young said TT has 11.4 tcf of proven gas reserves, with perhaps more. He reckoned that in all TT’s deep-water fields, gas deposits could total 55 tcf, “somewhere out there.”