The Petrotrin official who turned around the loss-making refinery has been shunted in favor of a manager without the necessary experience.
Now the highly-skilled Jonathan Barden has taken a vacation and it is not known whether he would return to his new post to complete the remaining two years of his employment contract.
Barden, who was recruited in 2013 from British Petroleum (BP) in the United Kingdom, was recently released from his post as vice president in charge of the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery.
The shock move took place in spite of earlier company commendations about Barden’s performance.
Barden has been replaced by Astor Harris, who has landed the critical post of president of refining and marketing.
Harris has been brought in from Phoenix Park Gas Processors Ltd., which is not in the petroleum refining business.
There have not been any disclosures about the employment process for Harris, and about whether there were public advertisements, short-listing and interviews.
Barden was relieved of the position of vice president of refining despite a Petrotrin statement in April about outstanding performance in that area of company operations.
The official statement said: “One very valuable area of improvement is the consistently good performance of the Pointe-a-Pierre Refinery.
“In fact, the refinery has been operating at throughput levels above 140,000 barrels per day over the past four months.”
Shortly after that statement, Petrotrin’s President Fitzroy Harewood revealed the executive changes.
Harewood said Barden has been put in charge of completing the ultra-low sulfur diesel plant, which has been troubled by engineering and technical problems since construction started in 2009.
TT Whistleblower research has uncovered that the construction cost has zoomed up from up from $780 million in 2009, to $3.19 billion – a 409 percent increase.
The project has been riddled with a number of difficulties, some of which are reportedly linked to wrong seismic resistance.
Now Barden has been asked to complete the troubled problem and, according to Harewood, “ensure its successful commissioning and operation by the first quarter of 2018 or before.”
Upon completion of construction, Barden is to hand over the plant to the refining and marketing division, Harewood said.
One of Barden’s first duties is likely to center on the construction contractor, since there are major issues with Samsung, and arbitration proceedings are likely.
Outrage is mounting at Petrotrin over the shock executive moves.
Several knowledgeable officials are looking for explanations from Harewood and the Petrotrin Board of directors, led by Andrew Jupiter.
Reports are that a senior official of Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) told the Petrotrin top brass sometime ago that workers are not keen on working with expatriates.
The refinery employs the most number of Petrotrin workers.
Colleagues who worked alongside Barden have described him as skilled, experienced and professional.
Petrotrin has been saddled with a massive cost and time overruns on major projects, including the aborted and scandalous World Gas-to-Liquids (WGTL) plant.
The WGTL issue was first reported in a four-part series by TT Whistleblower.
This news site has also reported exclusively on the rise in the cost of the gas optimization plant, from $2 billion to $9.5 billion, with additional charges associated with loan fees, interest and withholding taxes.
Also, the projected cost of construction of a corporate headquarters building climbed from $75 million to $1.2 billion.
The venture was eventually scrapped after some $170 million was spent, with bare steel and concrete being the only evidence of the expenditure.
The recent performance of the refinery was seen as the only success story at the Petrotrin giant.
Now, the architect of that accomplishment has been shoved aside – without explanation.