I would like to thank the American Chamber for the opportunity to speak at this event. It is a tremendous honor to address such a distinguished audience of senior leaders and managers. AGMs are typically about looking back at performance over the past year and about looking forward at strategic direction. I would like to congratulate AmCham for using this forum for exploring ideas as well.
Today, I want to talk about an attribute that I believe is absolutely vital when leading organizations into new and uncharted territories. Specifically, I would like to talk about the power of optimism and about why it is essential in how we define our energy future.
I’ve now been in my role here for about 9 months and in that time, as I have been introduced to many of you, I’ve often been asked how Trinidad compares to other places where I’ve lived and worked. Of course, every country has its positives and its challenges and what first struck me about Trinidad and Tobago was the warmth and generosity of the people and the amazing talent that exists here – not to mention the wonderful world of pan music and challenge of trying to master golf in the tropical paradise of Moka! Believe me if I can be optimistic there I know anything is possible! As I have settled into the business, and as I have learned more about the industry and the economy, the other thing that struck me was that T&T is certainly sitting on great potential and that it has much to play for.
What’s interesting to me, is that this potential is not fully nor widely understood. I have seen us become burdened by obstacles in the path of progress and miss the opportunity to be excited by the possibilities ahead of us – and this is true even in my own organization.
Of course, there are difficulties in our industry, and there are social issues to contend with – but that is no different to other places across the world.
So today, I wanted to get you, a community of the country’s most distinguished leaders, thinking about how we relate to the future.
We are familiar with the question – Is the glass half full or half empty? Yes, it’s a cliché – one of the two clichés I will allow myself to use today!
But the question is still relevant. Ultimately, it does not matter how we answer that question - the volume of water in the glass does not change depending on our answer, however it exposes our mindset – and our mindset can have a profound influence on our actions and the world around us.
But optimism is more than a mindset; it is a real catalyst for shaping future outcomes. It fuels innovation, perseverance and breeds resilience – not just in ourselves, but in the people we lead. One of my previous leaders in bp went so far as to say to be a leader one must be an optimist. That is because it allows our teams to see beyond the constraints of the present and envision a future filled with possibilities. And possibilities excite us.
Many of us here today lead organisations, and an integral part of what we do is “foresighting”. That is, we spend time dwelling in, and defining the future we want for our organizations. We then enroll our people in the possibilities we see, but for this to be effective, the description of that future needs to inspire action, otherwise we will not get the results we need from our people. This becomes even more important in the face of challenges.
I like the way Melinda Gates defines optimism and I quote “optimism isn't a belief that things will automatically get better; it’s a conviction that we can make things better.” This resonates with me because it suggests that we don’t need to simply accept our current reality but through conviction and I will add, action we can propel our organizations, our people and our country to a better future. And later on, I will come back to this notion of conviction.Why all this talk about optimism – especially from a leader in the energy sector?
Well, it’s because I am cautiously optimistic about Trinidad and Tobago’s energy future – and I want you to share in that optimism. We have proved resources that are well understood in the shallow water provinces and there are a number of world-class, motivated operators already investing to develop these resources into existing infrastructure. We have the deepwater areas that have ongoing appraisal activity after recent discoveries, and we are hopeful that even more deepwater acreage can be made available for exploration. Deepwater is our next frontier for exploration, and we believe that there is strong potential for more discoveries in this acreage.
Also, not ignoring the geopolitical and commercial complexities, there is the possibility of gas from neighbouring territories to be brought into Trinidad and Tobago’s existing and trusted gas infrastructure.
But Trinidad and Tobago, like many other energy producing countries, is at a crossroads. That was my second, and I promise my last cliché.... but we are at crossroads. We collectively must figure out how to embrace the energy transition to tackle one of the greatest challenges faced by mankind – that of climate change – while continuing to maximizing the value from T&T’s hydrocarbon resources, because that’s what this country needs us to do. In bp, our company strategy has been significantly influenced by the energy trilemma – that is the world’s demand for energy that is affordable, secure and low carbon. We are reinventing our company to be an integrated energy company; one that continues to invest in today’s energy systems ie hydrocarbons AND (not OR) in cleaner forms of energy such as renewables and hydrogen.
For Trinidad and Tobago, we also see opportunities in this energy transition. Some may be concerned that the energy transition could negatively affect the competitiveness of our energy exports and by extension the economy. But I take a different view – an optimistic view.
I believe that at a country level, we have the opportunity to use our incumbency, our relationships, our existing infrastructure and our highly skilled and experienced people, to find ways to make our energy exports lower carbon or greener and take advantage of emerging markets for low carbon energy commodities. At the same time, we have the opportunity to build and integrate renewable energy into our energy mix.And if we have conviction that Trinidad and Tobago can continue to be a secure, affordable and low carbon supplier of energy to the world, then it is incumbent on all of us to move forward with pace to grasp these opportunities and work together industry and government to unlock the opportunity that the energy transition presents.
This is the exact challenge I have given my bpTT team here in Trinidad and Tobago.
If I reflect on our business here a little, we’ve invested about US$3.4 billion in Trinidad and Tobago between 2018 and 2022 and we intend to invest another US$700 million in 2023. My fellow energy sector leaders know how difficult it is to secure capital. My point is that our business in T&T has been able to secure that funding because it has been able to articulate future potential. This is cautious optimism working in a very real sense.
Despite some of the negative things we may read in the press, our job is to continue to find and develop the gas resources to keep our gas-based industries running for decades to come.
It’s not easy and yes, at the moment, gas supply isn’t where we would like it to be. But is this current reality indicative of our future? – For me it isn’t, as we still see potential resources to go after in order to grow our business.As I understood more about the potential of our business and where the future sources of gas were going to come from, it became clear to me that my role was about helping our teams here to unlock that potential – and in doing so unlock T&T’s energy future. That’s where the conviction part comes in – understanding the potential and getting after the concrete plans needed to unlock it.
Now – optimism without action gets us nowhere. In fact, you could say optimism without action is just daydreaming. I like how Helen Keller describes optimism, and I quote; "Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence."
We at bpTT are not going to daydream.
We intend to act – we intend to invest – and we are going to unlock the potential we see.
We will push on to unlock the potential we see in the Columbus Basin – that means going after all of the resources in our shallow water acreage and in bidding for new acreage when offered by the Government.Our Cassia C facility, one of the largest and most complex facilities ever installed offshore Trinidad, is helping us to produce low pressure gas resources that would otherwise have been left in the ground as stranded resources. The facility has come online and like many complex gas projects, not without start up issues, but we are making great progress in addressing these and continuing the ramp up process.
You may remember we had “disappointments” with our drilling programme in 2019 and we took a pause to understand and learn from this. And today we are applying those learnings in our current drilling programme and you will have seen our recent announcements that we have had success with our 3 Mango wells which accessed small pools of resources and are already online and producing at target levels.
Sometimes setbacks truly are an opportunity to learn how to step-up.There’s more: We’re also looking at the potential of the resources in the deepwater and are partnering differently to unlock local deepwater resources – both with Woodside in the Calypso development and with Shell in the new deepwater bid round that we are currently progressing with the government.
And beyond Trinidad’s own borders bpTT also has resources to be unlocked with our neighbours to the south.
And that’s just what we are doing in our hydrocarbon business, in bp’s low carbon business we are excited to progress the solar project with our partners Shell – the first step in what we hope will be continued investments in cleaner forms of energy.
So, we see a lot to play for.
Hopefully, in sharing my own optimism for the future, I have been able to remind you of the potential that exists in this wonderful country. It is there to be unlocked; and this will require conviction, action, and pace.
As I close, I will share something Winston Churchill once famously said; “an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” So for me, not only is the glass half full – I believe there will be even more water (and hopefully gas!) in the glass in the future. And who knows even I may finally lower that golf handicap!