Trinidad Pursues U.S. License for BP-Venezuela Gas Project Amid Sanctions

(Reuters) — The government of Trinidad and Tobago has begun talks with the U.S. for a license that would allow the joint development of a natural gas project shared with Venezuela that also involves BP, Energy Minister Stuart Young said on Thursday.

The Manakin-Cocuina areas are part of the Plataforma Deltana massive gas project on the Venezuela side of the maritime border, which remains idled. On Trinidad's side, BP operates the field, and is moving toward a financial decision to develop it in keeping with U.S. sanctions against Venezuela.

Venezuela's government and BP last week confirmed talks to revive the joint development of Manakin-Cocuina, which had remained suspended for years upon imposition of U.S. sanctions in 2019. Venezuela said it was considering granting a separate long-term license for the project.

Trinidad has been pressing producers in recent years, especially offshore, to speed up gas projects so that the production of liquefied natural gas (LNG) recovers, boosting exports and petrochemical production.

Minister Stuart Young said he hopes Washington will grant the license for Manakin-Cocuina this year, similar to a 2023 authorization it extended to the Dragon gas project in Venezuela, which is being planned by Shell SHEL.L and Trinidad's National Gas Company (NGC).

"The government of Trinidad and Tobago is dealing with the government of Venezuela, and bringing BP along, as we did with Shell. So there is a precedent, a template for getting it done. And we have seen very, very fast progress and very productive progress," he told Reuters on the sidelines of the CERAWeek conference in Houston.

BP did not have an immediate comment.

The U.S. license for Dragon is set to expire in October next year, so talks for a possible extension are already taking place, Young said.

Shell and NGC have started preparations for Dragon's pre-FEED (Front-End Engineering and Design), a pivotal stage to ensure economic feasibility. Trinidad's government expects Shell will be ready to make a final investment decision on that project next year, Young said.

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