EXCLUSIVE Trinidad asks U.S. to allow Venezuelan gas imports for LNG plant

NOVEMBER 4, Trinidad and Tobago’s government is asking the United States to allow Venezuelan gas imports to restart a Caribbean liquefaction train, four sources close to the talks said.

Under US sanctions, companies and governments must obtain permission from the US Treasury Department to do business with Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA.

Previous requests from Trinidad for US approval have gone unanswered, but the US Biden administration’s willingness to ease some sanctions on Venezuela if President Nicolas Maduro and the opposition make progress in talks on a presidential election could provide a new opportunity.

The gas will come primarily from Venezuela’s Dragon field, off the country’s eastern coast, where PDVSA has discovered 4.2 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of reserves. The project went into production almost a decade ago, but stalled due to lack of capital and partners and sanctions.

If approved, its gas could restart a dormant liquefaction train at the 500 million cubic feet per day (cf/d) flagship Atlantic LNG project in Trinidad. The facility is a venture that primarily includes Shell ( SHEL.L ), BP and Trinidad and Tobago’s state-owned National Gas Company (NGC).

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The US Treasury declined to comment. Shell and NGC referred questions to the country’s energy ministry, which did not respond to a request for comment. BP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“All we need is access to an additional supply of natural gas right next to the immediate proven gas resources in Venezuela,” Trinidad’s Energy Minister Stuart Young said last month.


Trinidad is Latin America’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), with installed capacity processing 4.2 billion cf/d of LNG, petrochemicals and power. However, its gas production is slightly less than 3 billion cubic meters per day.

Even if Washington granted Trinidad’s request, it could take years of investment and development to get Venezuelan gas to Trinidad and boost LNG to Europe.

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“They don’t see the Trinidad solution as immediate enough for Europe,” said one person familiar with the matter.

Getting the field up and running is expected to require intensive engineering work and subsea inspections to verify the integrity of its head, which have not been done for years, experts said.

According to sources, early talks between Trinidad and Venezuela focused on building a 17-kilometer gas pipeline to connect the two countries.

The pipeline, originally intended to carry Dragon gas, was taken over by the Colibri offshore project between Shell and Trinidad’s Heritage Petroleum Co., which delivered the first gas in March.

That project follows an amended production sharing agreement for the Manatee gas field in Trinidad that extends to the Loran field in Venezuela.

But despite years of efforts to reach an agreement on joint exploitation of gas reservoirs, Venezuela’s fields remain completely idle with no infrastructure in place. In 2020, Maduro gave Trinidad the green light to start producing gas.

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“Minister Young is working very hard on this,” Trinidad Finance Minister Colm Imbert told a business meeting last week. “He was the link between the United States and Venezuela … all to develop that project and to get the United States to get Venezuela to send us gas.”

Reporting by Curtis Williams in Port of Spain and Marianne Paragan in Houston; Additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Josie Kao

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Marianna Parraga

Thomson Reuters

Focused on energy-related sanctions, corruption and money laundering, with 20 years of experience in the Latin American oil and gas industry. Born in Venezuela and based in Houston, she is the author of Oro Rojo, about Venezuela’s troubled state-owned company PDVSA, and a mother of three boys.


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