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Espinet in dark about Petrotrin refinery sale

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Petrotrin chairman Wilfred Espinet is holding fast to his position that there is no plan to sell or privatise the refinery at Point-a-Pierre which is being shut down.

Espinet, who is out of the country, referred questions on any plan to sell or privatise the refinery to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley when contacted by phone yesterday. His claim came hours after the PM told the country the refining assets of Petrotrin could be put into a “separate company for opportunity attention” and the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) “will be given the first option to own and operate it on the most favourable terms.”

But OWTU president general Ancel Roget has rejected the offer saying the union never wanted to own the refinery. (See pages A5 and A13)

Yesterday, Espinet said he wanted to make it “absolutely clear” that he had “absolutely no knowledge of anybody wanting to buy the refinery,” nor had he “been in any discussion whatsoever with anybody, politician, public servant, union, anybody where I indicated to them that any part of the strategy was about selling the refinery.”

Told further of Rowley’s plan, he insisted he was “never involved in any discussion, recommendation or proposal regarding the sale of Petrotrin’s refinery. Never!”

Espinet said the decision to close the refinery followed eleven months of work done with the assistance of a number of experts. He said by removing the refinery, the company will have the money to pay its debt “because it is eating out the cash and you cannot pay the debt. But if you could stop bleeding of that cash, you can then re-direct the cash to paying the debt.”

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has suggested that a way should be found for this country, as a member of Caricom, to help refine the oil found in Guyana.

But Espinet said it is not as simple as Persad-Bissessar made it out to be.

“The first thing is to go and find out how the Guyana oil is coming out of the ground, where it is moving, how they moving it, who owns it, who owns the rights and how do you get it,” he said.

Saying Persad-Bissessar was suggesting T&T can do it as a Caricom partner, Espinet said, “In Caricom we don’t even trade each other’s goods. Where is the reality in all of this?”

Responding to calls from former energy minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan for a national conversation on the closure of the refiner, Espinet asked, “What does the conversation do? All of that sounds very good. How does that conversation pay the people their money? How does that happen?”

He said once the investments in exploration and production increase “you will get better returns and better results. We have assets that have been determined in the ground and we need to monetise them. They have not been monetised because we have spent billions on the refinery which have not worked.”

Asked about the threat of a shutdown by the trade unions carded for Friday, Espinet said Petrotrin “always has contingency plans in place.”


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