Youths turn out in numbers to Oil and Gas forum

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By Bibi Khatoon

The Umana Yana was filled to capacity on Saturday when youths gathered to engage the Departments of Energy, Environment and Youth on the prospering oil and gas industry in Guyana.
Fielding questions were Head of the Department of Energy Dr. Mark Bynoe, Representative of the Energy Department Alvin Dorris and Director of Youth Melissa Carmichael.
Representative of the Energy Department Alvin Dorris

Addressing those gathered, Carmichael pointed out that youths’ involvement in the sector is necessary.

“The youth department is hoping that this session will empower you to create solutions for the energy sector through hands-on projects,” she noted.

The Youth forum on Oil and Gas is the first of a number of other sessions which will be held, according to Carmichael.

Director of Youth Melissa Carmichael

She disclosed that in 2019, the Department will be rolling out the Green Ambassadors and Apprenticeship programme which will seek to further empower youths in the sector.

“We do not want Guyana to develop and young people to be left behind,” she said.

Among the issues raised are the systems being put in place to guard against the ‘resource curse,’ the intention of building an oil refinery in Guyana, job opportunities available for young people in the sector, oil spill response mechanisms, efforts being made to have educational programmes available and plans for natural gas and renewable energy.

While some of the concerns were addressed, there were others which the young people felt were “skirted around.”

Head of the Department of Energy Dr. Mark Bynoe

The Dutch Disease

Given the challenges faced with the country’s natural resources and shared wealth over the years, many persons expressed concern about an impending resource curse.

Dr. Bynoe said the country has been poor in its enforcement over the years, however, he believes the Sovereign Wealth Fund “will help to protect where those (oil) resources are going”.

He said the Petroleum Commission, the Local Content Policy and the Petroleum Commission will address these concerns.

Oil Refinery

As it relates to the question of an oil refinery to provide more job opportunities, the Director of Energy stated that the Government is not considering the building of an oil refinery at this time.

In fact, Oil and Gas Adviser at the Department of Energy, Matthew Wilks noted that there is “too much” refineries around the world to cater for the country’s petroleum production.

The Government in 2017 had hired Director of Advisory Services at United States-based Hartree Partners, Pedro Haas, to determine the feasibility of setting up of an oil refinery in Guyana. In delivering his findings, he had noted that an oil refinery in Guyana can run up to US$5B including the cost of energy generation and labour and is a risky investment.

Wilks on Saturday referenced Trinidad and Tobago which had to close its major refinery as production of oil decreases.

However, one private businessman, Turhane Doerga pointed out that his company is looking to open an oil refinery in Linden, Region Ten.

On this note, Dr. Bynoe noted that “anyone who wishes to open a refinery can do so.” However, he said that person will not receive subsidized oil from the Government.

Job opportunities 

“Prosperous people profit from problems.” Those were the words of the representative of the Energy Department, Alvin Dorris as he encouraged youths to look for solutions to various challenges that are in the way of the oil and gas sector.

Given his field of management, he noted that there are several issues which will need attention in the environmental aspect of petroleum production in the future since Guyana is trying to develop its petroleum resources while protecting its environment.

“We need instruments that will help us to hold accountable developers,” he noted.

One young man, Gerrod Lamazon pointed to the requirement of experience in order to be given a chance in the job market to which Dr. Bynoe urged young people to start small and work their way up.

Gerrod Lamazon

“Do not chase after the dollar, chase after your dreams,” he told the gathering of over 400 young people earlier in the programme.

Lamazon also posed the question about making it compulsory for contractors to hire local content, however, the Energy Director said that the department must first establish what local capacity is available to take absorb those contracts.

“If you go to be prescriptive, you can stymie our own development,” he pointed out.

Training 

Dr. Bynoe noted that the Energy Department, which is tasked with ensuring that the resources are filtered down to the people, is working with the Board of Industrial Training and other agencies to promote educational programmes.

He noted that the Department has moved to employ a communications expert to formulate the required programmes to get its messages out.

The Director added that a meeting is slated with the National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD) and the Education Ministry to ensure there is closer collaboration.

Meanwhile, the Energy Department representative, Doris disclosed that they are hoping to influence curriculum reform in schools so that the younger generation will be better prepared in years to come.
The other issues raised include the need for more long term plans to ensure that with a change of Government, plans do not suddenly turn for the worst.
However, the panellists said that is to be decided at a political level and must be demanded by the people.
Another engagement with youths is likely on Saturday, January 19, 2019, at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall.

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