Further to media announcements in late September about development of Dragon Field by Trinidad and Venezuela, the Maduro government is yet to give any indication as to what was signed and how the deal, which has to comply with U.S. Treasury's sanctions, will structure a non-cash paying mechanism to Venezuela. Deals of this nature signed by the Executive only become official, as far as current Venezuelan law is concerned, once Congress approves and orders publication in Official Gazette. That is yet to happen.
On Trinidad’s side, there’s been a number of debates in its Parliament as to the nature and scope of deal. David Lee - Trinidadian Congressman and member of Trinidad’s Parliament Committee on Energy Affairs - claimed the following in a debate held this past Monday:
“...Venezuela has asked to consider a pipeline from the Dragon gas field to Guiria which is on the Venezuelan border and then run a pipeline from Guiria which they, the Venezuelans, say is a shorter distance to Point Fortin where Atlantic LNG is. So, from my information, I do not know if I am correct, I am just saying I was told that that becomes now a negotiating item where the Venezuelans are asking us to consider, because we would be putting in the amount the money to run a pipeline from the Dragon gas field to Guiria and then from Guiria to Point Fortin… Now, let us talk about the Manatee and the Loran. From what I understand, the Venezuelan Government has now lumped the Manatee and Loran and the Dragon gas in one; in one. Now, back in 2019, the Minister did say, and I agree, that there was some agreement signed to hive off Manatee from Loran. Manatee is on the Trinidad and Tobago side and we would develop the Manatee field. That sounds good, Madam Speaker. Now, it is a cross-border. Same waters, Madam Speaker. I understand, based on negotiations that President Maduro is now asking us to reconsider that whole Manatee and Loran development. And if you listen to the Minister of Energy and Energy Industries carefully this morning, or the Minister, he mentioned something to that effect. Because the Minister lumped now this morning Manatee with Loran back together. He lumped it back. Right? So, I am asking, is there new negotiations? Because, you see, if we develop the Manatee field first before the Venezuelan Loran, what would happen naturally, Madam Speaker, the flow from the Manatee side would be so powerful, and I put it in layman terms, that the people of Venezuela might feel that they are being, I do not want to use the word “robbed”, but they are not getting their fair share from that Loran-Manatee field, Madam Speaker. So that is why there is now some discussion by the Venezuelans to let us now consider developing it back together as one, Madam Speaker, and that impacts on the Dragon gas deal. So we have lumped all that together and I heard the Minister of Energy and Energy Industries did sort of mention something along those lines and then came up with the non-disclosure clause as usual…”
Source: https://www.ttparliament.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/hh20231009u.pdf (from page 41)
The above quote was in response to remarks made by Stuart Young, Trinidad’s Minister of Energy and Energy Industries and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, who in same debate said:
"Manatee: To explain Manatee, Manatee is part of the Loran-Manatee field which is between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela, 2.7 tcf in Trinidad’s water and approximately 7.3 on Venezuela’s side. There was a unitization agreement. When we saw what was taking place as a result of the US sanctions, we negotiated and got President Maduro to allow us to produce Manatee Field. So that is going to happen and that provides a future for Trinidad and Tobago, and it is only natural that Loran will follow. And I can tell the people of Trinidad and Tobago, in my recent discussions with the Venezuelans, and in particular President Maduro, and Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez, they are looking at Loran coming to Trinidad and Tobago.”
Source: Ibid., p. 19-20
Elsewhere in Trinidad’s Parliament records there is information about and agreement with Shell to develop Manatee Field: “...In November 2021, Shell and the Government signed a 25-year production-sharing contract to develop and produce natural gas from the Manatee Field…”
Source: https://www.ttparliament.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/hh20220926u.pdf (page 14).
Trinidad and Venezuela had agreed in 2019 to each develop its share of hydrocarbon resources from the Loran-Manatee gas field independently. Since 2021 announcement referred, it took nearly two years for Shell to green light the Manatee project.
The debate this week in Trinidad’s Parliament, however, suggests that there's no clarity as to what did Minister Young signed with his Venezuelan counterpart Pedro Tellechea. Neither government has published related documents.
To add to the opacity, Reuters reported "Venezuela, Trinidad begin price talks for gas exports from Dragon field”. Reuters’ article is based on the parliamentary debate on Monday referred above, which does not contain a single mention by Minister Young as to the price mechanisms that will apply to exports from Dragon field.
In fact, despite having been asked Minister Young is yet to give any straight answers to parliamentary question regarding "whether the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and the Government of Venezuela have agreed on any terms of payment to monetise the Dragon Gas Field in light of the Government of the United States of America stipulation; and the commodity that has been offered or highlighted to be used as payment in lieu of money, in light of the stipulations by the United States of America?”
The only new aspect about the deal is the alleged pipeline to Güiria - Point Fortin that Venezuela has presumably requested to get its share of gas from Dragon field. Congressman Lee seems to think the pipeline at Trinidad’s expense is now part of ongoing negotiations. Is this the "price talks" that Reuters attributes to Minister Young?
This is speculative, but if the pipeline is built as claimed Venezuela could potentially use Atlantic LNG as a trading port.