Trinidad & Tobago’s deep-water round could face some additional delay following the recent death of energy minister Franklin Khan.
Khan, who died suddenly on 17 April, was known to have had a history of heart problems.
His position was taken by former national security minister Stuart Young, breaking with a recent tradition of appointing from within the ranks of the Energy Ministry.
Young, who has a background in law, has not yet commented on whether he intends to stick to Khan’s agenda for concluding a delayed deep-water licensing round before the end of 2021.
The round was originally scheduled to reach its conclusion in the final quarter of 2020, but its launch was pushed back into the first quarter of 2021.
Sources in the capital Port of Spain said the round also lost momentum due to disappointing results on BHP's Broadside wildcat, which was drilled in a water depth of 2000 metres in the final quarter of last year.
The exploration well was targeting a deeper play, probing to more than 7000 metres.
The dry well led to BHP's decision to relinquish acreage on the company's so-called southern offshore licences.
The promised bid round includes acreage located to the north of Tobago and eastwards to the Barbados ridge, but also covers swathes of the more southerly deep-water acreage.
In his final interview, Khan told the Trinidad Guardian newspaper an agreement with BHP would make data from relinquished acreage available in the package for the bid round.
Khan had said the deep-water round would be held before the year-end, but some Trinidad industry sources consulted by Upstream expressed scepticism about this target.
“Young has some experience of negotiating gas contracts, but there is a lot to be done to hold the round this year,” said one.
Kevin Ramnarine, a former energy minister, was more hopeful. “The passing of Minister Franklin Khan was very unfortunate. With Minister Stuart Young in place, I don't foresee any change in policy direction for the energy sector," he said.
As energy minister, Khan had advocated regulatory moves to make oil and gas investments more attractive, including marginal fields and stranded gas in the mature Columbus basin.
Officials have suggested that the deep-water bid round will indeed be followed by another offering, covering onshore and shallow water acreage.
But they also recognise that the deep-water play — where there has been no new licensing for more than six years — remains key to boosting flagging reserves and production.