In Trinidad, bp builds an energy futureApril 19, 2023
David Campbell, president of bp Trinidad and Tobago (bpTT), talks to The Energy Year about how Trinidad’s oil and gas sector has attracted a high level of investment from bp and how the company is ramping up gas production and making improvements to key infrastructure. bpTT operates 16 offshore platforms and two onshore processing facilities.
What were bpTT’s most important operational achievements in 2022?
It’s been a very busy year, as we have emerged from the pandemic, which was difficult for all offshore operators. I’m very proud of how our teams have managed challenges with Covid-19 health protocols and the impacts that had on our work sites and business. In 2022, we also continued our focus on improving production. That meant fighting natural field declines, while also bringing new fields on line.
We have done a great deal this year to fight natural field declines with a different set of operating practices, carefully managing our wells and system pressures to get the most we can out of our producing fields. We have also been focused on driving greater efficiency in our operations.
Our offshore workers have been involved in multi-skilling and we’ve worked on maintenance operations to reduce some of the backlogs that accumulated during the pandemic. This is all the underlying work that was done to get back to the position we were in before the pandemic.
Regarding our current projects, Cassia-C has come on line. It is the most complicated platform in Trinidad, certainly the most complicated bp has ever built in the country. The platform was partly built in Mexico at the McDermott fabrication yard in Altamira and partly in Trinidad at the Tofco [Trinidad Offshore Fabricators] yard, then brought together offshore. It was a complicated plan that involved careful integration between our contractors and our projects and operations team.
There are three compressors in that plant, and gas turbines that resemble what you might see on an aeroplane. We’re reducing the pressure of the entire system offshore and onshore at the same time, thereby bringing old wells back into production and getting more production out of our lower producing wells. There are no new wells for this platform; it’s just a matter of getting more gas out of the system we already have.
What improvements are there to be made in your existing pipelines and infrastructure?
We’ve been investing in some very important integrity projects. Maintaining the safety and integrity of our pipelines is core to sustaining our operations into the future and we are investing in the replacement of two of our critical pipelines: our 12-inch offshore pipeline, which connects all of our production facilities offshore to our Galeota terminal onshore, and our 6-inch onshore pipeline, which connects our Beachfield facility to our Galeota terminal. These are projects that will allow us to produce for longer, safely.
We’re also bringing the Galeota terminal expansion project to a close in 2023. This will involve improving the quality of our produced water and reducing the carbon emissions from the Galeota facility. That’s a very important environmental project, but it means more investment in the country. In the last 10 years, bp has invested significantly in Trinidad. In that period, we have spent around USD 7 billion-10 billion in our operations here.
This says a lot about how important Trinidad is to bp, and you see some of that investment coming through in these recent projects. Additionally, in December we sanctioned a solar project [Project Lara] with our partners Lightsource bp and Shell, and that project will begin construction in 2023. This is a big deal for Trinidad and Tobago, as the first commercial-scale solar project and the largest in the Caribbean, and it’s great to see the energy transition in Trinidad and Tobago is under way.
How has the Trinidadian petroleum sector attracted such a high level of investment from bp?
T&T is lucky in its geographical location, has a well-established LNG and petrochemical industry, has huge markets around it, has a government that skilfully runs the country and is a stable democracy. It is not a sanctioned country, so it can trade its goods and services freely. There remains a lot of potential for growth and a future for the oil and gas industry in Trinidad and Tobago, but we have to work collaboratively with the government.
We need to continue to invest, find and develop more resources and get them on line as quickly as possible. The world needs secure, affordable and cleaner energy and T&T can continue to play a role in providing that energy.
One of the major things we need to do is to accelerate deepwater exploration and development. Just recently we partnered with Shell to submit bids on four of the deepwater blocks on offer in the government’s deepwater bid round and we are moving forward with the government to negotiate the terms for those. We are also a partner with Woodside on the Calypso deepwater development and supporting them as they progress the plans for developing those discovered deepwater resources.
With Atlantic, Trinidad has an existing LNG facility with spare capacity, and that’s a unique position as other countries are building new plants in order to try to satisfy the global demand for gas.
In December, the government and Atlantic’s shareholders – bp, Shell and NGC – reached an agreement on the substantive commercial terms that will govern the future of Atlantic. This was an important milestone to not only help to simplify Atlantic’s operations but to provide the commercial certainty needed to attract more investment in the upstream.
I’d like people to think about the Atlantic LNG restructuring not as an end in itself, but as an enabling step towards Trinidad’s future, which will involve the ability to bring more gas into the facility and to export more LNG to global markets.
With Cassia-C now online, what other projects are underway to restore gas production?
One way we’re attempting to improve production is by focusing on our drilling and well work operations. We will continue with significant well work activity to get the most production we can out of our existing wells and then of course, we will be drilling some new wells. There’s a chain of smaller pools that we’re targeting in producing fields such as Mango, Savonette and Angelin, trying to get more resources out of our already producing fields.
We’ve completed the first well out of seven planned wells in this programme. Then we have new fields to develop such as Cypre, Coconut and Ginger.
Last year we made a final investment decision on Cypre. This is our next major project in our plans and this was enabled by our swift negotiations with NGC to extend our existing gas sales contract for the supply of gas to the domestic market. Cypre is now moving through the various stages of our major project processes and we expect to start drilling the wells for Cypre later in the year.
What significance do subsea tie-back projects hold for future operations?
Subsea tie-back projects allow us to maximise existing offshore infrastructure. For example, our Juniper project was the first of our subsea projects that consisted of an unmanned platform and subsea manifolds and wells. Then in 2021 we completed our Matapal project, which included wells with flowlines that tied back into the Juniper facility and next up is Cypre.
This type of subsea development concept allows us to access gas resources in adjacent fields and flow that gas through existing infrastructure such as Juniper. After Cypre, we hope to be able to sanction Ginger and Coconut as further tie-backs. This is all about trying to extract all of the remaining small pools of gas in the acreage as efficiently as possible, which is very important.
Rather than building new platforms for each new field development, we are flowing gas through existing infrastructure – that not only saves cost but also allows us to produce that gas with less greenhouse gas emissions. Tie-back projects will become an increasing part of our future plans.
The North Sea is a good example – most basins start onshore, where the wells are easier to drill and access, then you gradually move in with additional technology into shallow water, then deeper water. With each area, once we’ve made the anchor investments in the first big fields, we try to tie smaller reserves back to those facilities.
Utilising existing facilities is more economical than building a new structure. This is what I’m hoping we can do with the Calypso field as well, as it becomes one of the first developments in deepwater. I would expect that subsea structures will be more common, also, because as we get further out towards the shelf, which gets deeper, subsea makes more sense, as opposed to trying to build very large structures.
How do you view bp’s role in supporting Trinidad and Tobago’s transition to a low-carbon future?
I see our role as two-fold: firstly, we need to progressively decarbonise our operations, and secondly, we need to support the country as it navigates the energy transition. In our own operations we have been making investments to reduce our carbon emissions including things like reducing flaring and purging, installing gas cloud imaging cameras at our Beachfield site and making further modifications to our Galeota terminal to reduce and possibly eliminate flaring.
We are also designing projects to be less carbon intensive. For example, by doing tie-back projects such as Cypre we’re adding production without adding emissions because it will be using power from the Juniper platform.
At a national level we are making investments that will help the country to achieve its own climate goals. The recently approved solar project is a great example of that and we are partnering with academic institutions such as UWI [University of the West Indies] and UTT [University of Trinidad and Tobago] on a carbon capture and storage (CCS) research project that will identify potential reservoirs that can store carbon in the future.
As a global company we are growing our own knowledge and expertise in cleaner energies and partnering with corporates and governments across the world. We are already sharing those learnings whether in technology or policy with local partners and government as the industry thinks through how we unlock things like CCS, hydrogen, carbon pricing mechanisms, etc.
Is Project Lara representative of future endeavours in solar and other renewable energies for bpTT?
It’s a great start, but as an island state we need to look at other sources of renewable energy given that solar developments require a lot of land. The other growth area for renewables worldwide is offshore wind, and the Trinidadian government has been looking at that. Globally we are seeing a strong expansion into wind energy. For example, in Scotland, there are lots of wind turbines offshore.
In Norway, they started to build the first floating wind farms, and that means they can be built irrespective of water depth. The technologies exist for offshore wind, but T&T just needs to have the collaboration and the will to develop it, as well as having the commercial structures to make it worthwhile. In certain countries, they have either put in place incentives and subsidies or taxed emissions.
I think it’s very sensible for the government to be looking at offshore wind, particularly as feedstock for a potential green hydrogen industry here. If you believe that in the future there will be less demand for hydrocarbon fuels, then we have a window of opportunity to try to supply the world with progressively cleaner products.