Kevin Ramnarine: The Manning Legacy in Energy
Patrick Manning biggest contribution to the national energy sector of Trinidad is
the formation of The Atlantic LNG company witch operates four liquefaction
units (trains). Train 4, with a 5.2 million metric tonnes per annum (mtpa)
production capacity, is among the world's largest LNG trains in operation.
Patrick Manning casts a long shadow over the political landscape of T&T. Prior to his entry into politics he worked as a geologist at Texaco. Among the veterans of the local oil industry there are different versions of the story of why he left Texaco for the unpredictable world of politics. On entering electoral politics in 1971, Mr. Manning replaced Gerald Montano. It has been suggested that this move was a response by Dr. Eric Williams to the agitations of the Black Power movement of 1970.
I was told that in the run up to the 1976 general election there was an attempt to replace Mr. Manning with another PNM candidate. As fate would have it, a delegation of his supporters met with the then Minister of Petroleum and Mines and MP for San Fernando West, Errol Mahabir. The delegation lobbied for Mr. Manning to be retained. They were successful and he was returned as the candidate for San Fernando East in 1976. T&T would have been a much different place if he was rejected in 1976.
In 1981 after the death of Dr. Eric Williams, George Chambers led the PNM to victory at the polls with 26 seats. It was during the Chambers administration that Mr. Manning was appointed as the Minister of Petroleum and Mines. At the age of 35 he remains the youngest person ever appointed to that position. I know this because I am the second youngest person to have held that portfolio. In 1986 he survived the NAR 33-3 tsunami by only narrowly holding on to his seat. He then went on to rebuild the PNM and win the 1991 general election.
In 1991 when he became Prime Minister for the first time, I was an undergraduate student at the UWI. I remember the first Manning government had a corporate image about it which was absent in previous Government's. Together with his Finance Minister Wendell Mottley, he set out liberalizing the economy, privatizing unproductive State assets and preparing T&T for globalization. When he took the decision to float the TT dollar the prophets of doom predicted disaster and hyperinflation akin to what had happened in Bolivia in the mid 80's. Doomsday never came and his decision to float the dollar was the right one.
In the energy sector, Mr. Manning loomed large. His biggest contribution to the national energy sector came in 1992 when under his leadership a decision was made to take T&T into the world of liquefied natural gas. On July 20th 1995 Atlantic LNG was formed with shareholders including Cabot of Boston, the NGC, BP and BG. A few months later, in October 1995, Mr. Manning would call a snap election which ended in the famous 17-17-2 outcome. Not for the last time, Mr. Manning graciously accepted defeat and headed to the Opposition bench where he stayed until December 2001.
T&T has however been known for consistency of energy policy. With that in mind on June 20th 1996 the new UNC/ NAR Administration signed the “LNG Project Agreement” with Atlantic LNG. The rest as they say is history. In 1999 LNG exports commenced from Train I. By 2001 when he was back as Prime Minister Trains II and III were already under way. He however presided over the decision to build Train IV which was at one time the largest LNG train in the world.
The statistics are impressive. In 1999 T&T was producing 1.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. By 2010 natural gas production peaked at 4.3 billion cubic feet per day. The 3 fold increase in natural gas production led to a tripling of the size of the economy from US$ 6485 per capita in the year 2000 to a peak of US$ 21,410 per capita in 2008. A central actor in that growth story was BPTT. Interestingly, Mr. Manning's leadership in the energy sector has been documented by former BP CEO Lord John Browne in his book “Seven Elements That Have Changed the World.” In the book Lord Browne noted Mr. Manning's desire to monetize natural gas for the benefit of the country.
In the latter years of his Prime Ministership he envisioned aluminum smelters, a gas pipeline from T&T to the Eastern Caribbean and downstream industries that would go beyond methanol and ammonia to products such as polyethylene, polypropylene and melamine. Under his watch, construction started on the 720 megawatt TGU power plant in La Brea. This project was completed in 2012 and forms the anchor for the Union Industrial Estate.
Mr. Manning did well for Trinidad and Tobago. As far as the energy sector is concerned he always acted to place the national interest and the bigger picture ahead of all else. If today we enjoy the best standard of living in the Caribbean it is because of his decisions around the monetization of our natural gas resources.
I once remember Mr. Manning saying that running T&T wasn't an easy job. Becoming Prime Minister of this country and performing in that job is indeed a herculean task. It requires that the aspirant make a massive personal sacrifice for which there no guarantee of success. Patrick Manning made that sacrifice and we thank him for his outstanding contribution.
Kevin Ramnarine is the former Minister of Energy of Trinidad and Tobago (2011 to 2015) . Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.
This commentary was originally published by F the Trinidad Guardian Newspaper on July 5th 2016. Petroleumworld reprint this article in the interest of our readers.
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