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GOVERNMENT DEAF, DUMB, BLIND TO NATURAL GAS CRISIS by Reg Potter

posted 28 Mar 2017, 11:45 by Gerry Kangalee
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Much has been written about the current gas shortage and various measures taken to try to mitigate the fallout from this problem. Criticism of NGC has been suggested for not agreeing a contract with MHTL and concerns raised about our continued attraction for foreign investors.

I think most of these miss the point which is we have simply run out of gas. We can make all sorts of contracts and hope to buy gas from Venezuela but these will not create any more T&T gas.

I have been writing in the press since 2003 to warn the seemingly deaf-to-the-facts ministers of Energy about the shortage of proven reserves relative to the commitments we have, while the same ministers continued to pretend that our gas reserves are infinite and new gas will mysteriously appear like manna from heaven.

We should never have approved LNG train 4 that consumes 800 bcfd of gas. We had no need for the ‘Cross Island Pipeline’ since the existing pipelines provided enough capacity for a reduced, steady and longer-term supply to the existing industries, with potential production rates in reserve that would provide security of supply during localised interruption difficulties offshore.

Policy seemed to be to approve any gas consuming scheme that was proposed with no regard whatever for the ability to produce the resultant aggregate production rate required or how long this would be possible. We advertised this as proof of T&T being an ‘investment friendly’ nation, and have strutted around the world claiming to be advanced thinkers on a ‘business model’ and world leaders in gas utilization.

This apparently still continues in the face of evidence of the impossibility of ever producing enough gas in the foreseeable future. Clear evidence of this is in the construction of the Massy/Mitsubishi methanol/DME plant when MHTL has to shut down for lack of gas! Why was this project approved by both PNM and PP governments?

It’s all very well to say that the PP government OK’d the deal, but it was definitely started by the preceding PNM government who knew of the dire reserve shortage and are now in power and still saying nothing while construction commences. Word on the street is that other Pt Lisas gas plants are considering legal action due to the 4 – 5 years of starved gas supplies they have had to bear. Is this present government deaf dumb and blind? Why isn’t the project being stopped before the inevitable non-supply to them triggers yet another law suit, and severe national embarrassment?

If any attempt is to be made to manage this catastrophe, there is the consideration of best use of gas. Newer plants are more efficient and from the same quantity of gas make more methanol and ammonia than older plants. I do hope that somebody somewhere in authority is making a careful analysis of which plants bring the most benefit to T&T, considering all the many aspects such as age, efficiency, overall profit, tax, jobs, foreign exchange retained etc.

From this the priority for plant shut downs can be derived and announced. It’s no point keeping everything secret and claiming that’s required by the buyers of gas. A new-build plant will face severe difficulties in such an analysis since it is new (and unnecessary) capital, leading to large deductions for plant wear and tear and consequent reduced tax payment. We really don’t need foreign direct investment that shuts down other plants and reduces tax receipts.

This is a national crisis and requires critical action.
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