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Malcolm Jones passes on
Last week the country lost one of its distinguished sons as former chairman of Petrotrin and former president of the National Gas Company Malcolm Jones died at the Augustus Long Hospital.
Jones’ illustrious career in the energy industry spanned almost 50 years. He was a graduate of Presentation College, San Fernando; the University of the West Indies where he received a BSc (Hons) in chemical engineering in 1965 as well as Queen’s University in Canada, where he received an MSc in chemical engineering in 1970.
Jones started off his career as a process engineer at Texaco, moving on next to the Ministry of Petroleum and Mines where he served as a chemical engineer, development engineer, project process engineer, and associate project manager.
From 1971 to 1980 he served as president of Trinidad Nitrogen Company Ltd, then at the National Energy Corporation, the National Gas Company, Titan Methanol and then as chairman and executive chairman of Petrotrin.
Over the years Jones willingly shared his insights with this column and gave interviews to me for more than two decades. In fact, a couple of years ago he joked that it appeared that this column was the only one that still cared for his opinion.
Last year, he gave his last interview to the Business Guardian and talked about the challenges he saw the current board and management of Petrotrin having to face over the next five years.
At the time of the interview in 2016, Jones said Petrotrin’s management will have to find a way of working with the OWTU while at the same time do what was in the best interest of the company.
“They will have to be able to straddle the course gingerly,” Jones told the Business Guardian.
He said the new management team will have to make a clear determination on what is the future of Petrotrin in terms of upstream and midstream production. He was convinced that in the upstream, Petrotrin will have to seek a joint venture partner with deep pockets to search for and produce crude oil.
The late chairman said that Petrotrin has significant reserves of crude oil both onland and particularly offshore but could not produce it on its own.
“There is a lot of oil particularly in Trinmar. We know that there is plenty oil in Soldado and a lot of heavy oil both on land and at sea but you need a company with deep pockets to find it and produce it. Onland you need some more seismic work and you are likely to have to go deep to find additional reserves but there is a lot of oil still to produce,” he explained.
Jones also suggested there may also be oil on the east coast, west of where Perenco now operates and where Trintopec once had platforms.
“Like all oil and gas companies, Petrotrin faces significant challenges in the current commodity price environment. The challenge for the company will be to increase oil production and improve refinery efficiency whilst controlling costs.”
But for Jones the issue went beyond the present low-priced energy environment. It had to do with the capacity to properly run the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery since according to Petrotrin’s former executive chairman, a lot of the refinery operator skills have been lost by the company and it may now have to seek an external operator.
Jones did not think that the company could undertake a “bottom of the barrel” upgrade because it was expensive and the company so heavily burdened financially. He said projects like the yet to be completed ultra low sulphur diesel project should be pursued but the bottom of the barrel project was just too costly.
According to a release from Petrotrin, Jones played a critical role in the establishment of Phoenix Park Gas Processors Ltd (PPGPL).
He also headed the methanol and urea divisions of the National Energy Corporation of T&T Ltd and was instrumental in the construction of both the methanol and urea plants.
Petrotrin noted that a little-known fact was Jones’ commitment to volunteerism and community service.
He was an active member of the advisory board of Habitat for Humanity (T&T) and was also the president of the Halfway House, a non-profit organisation for battered women and abused children.
Over the years, Jones received several awards for his tremendous accomplishments and contributions to national economic development. Most notably, he was awarded the Chaconia Medal (Gold) in 2004. That same year he received a Samaan Tree Award from the UWI Alumni Association (T&T Chapter).
In 2007 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of T&T.
He was also a Fellow of several associations: the Association of Professional Engineers of T&T; the British Institute of Chemical Engineers (IchemE) and the Institute of Energy (UK).
Malcolm Jones leaves behind a larger than life career and legacy.
May he rest in peace.