Trinidad and Tobago’s energy minister said Wednesday an audit has revealed that the Caribbean country’s proved natural gas reserves have declined, but he predicted that global demand for its liquefied natural gas (LNG) resources would rise.

According to media reports, Ryder Scott Co., a Houston-based auditing firm, said proved natural gas reserves fell from 14.42 Tcf in 2009 to 13.46 Tcf in 2010, a decline of almost 7%. Probable gas reserves also fell more than 2% during that time, from 7.83 to 7.64 Tcf. Exploration capacity slipped from 25.99 Tcf to less than 25.98 Tcf.

But Kevin Ramnarine, the country’s energy minister, downplayed the results. “I want to make it very clear that gas is not running out in Trinidad and Tobago,” Ramnarine said at a press conference in the capital, Port of Spain, on Wednesday. “Proven reserves are but one [of four] categories of reserves. They are not the be-all and end-all of natural gas reserves.

“There has been this tendency to make statements that we have 12 years or 11 years or 10 years of gas left. These statements are based on the division of the proven reserve number by the annual rate of consumption. No company in the world runs their business like that, so why should we? The analogy would be planning your life based on the salary you expect to receive at the end of the month.”

Ramnarine added that the major gas suppliers in the island nation use combined proven and probable reserve figures — or “2P” — for their business planning. He said because of this, the ministry and the Natural Gas Co. of Trinidad and Tobago (NGC) should use 2P figures for national industrial planning as well.

Nevertheless, Ramnarine said 2P reserves also declined, from 22.26 Tcf in 2009 to 21.10 Tcf in 2010, a decline of more than 5%. He attributed the decline to a 2010 consumption rate of 1.47 Tcf.

Ramnarine added that Trinidad’s recent awarding of two blocks — which the ministry estimates contains between 4.7 and 8.2 Tcf of natural gas — to the BP Exploration Energy Co. could lead to the discovery of new reserves.

“At the present time, if there was a major gas discovery in this country, there simply is no or little market for that gas,” Ramnarine said. “All demand for natural gas is currently occupied. That serves as a disincentive to companies as regards exploration. Put quite simply, we cannot expect that companies would spend hundreds of millions of dollars to explore, appraise and develop reserves and have no market for that natural gas.”

On LNG, Ramnarine said the country should be wary of what is happening in the global environment. “Events in Japan last April have altered the future global energy supply mix,” Ramnarine said. “Confidence in nuclear energy has been shattered. The German government has announced that they will totally phase out nuclear power by 2020. Given the unfortunate events in Japan, there has been a renewed confidence that LNG is the fuel of the future.”

Trinidad, the largest exporter of LNG to the United States, said in May it wanted to expand exports to other countries while seeking foreign investment at home (see Daily GPI, March 22). Ramnarine said the government and the NGC were interested in several projects, including converting methanol to polypropylene and petrochemicals.

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