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posted 4 Dec 2019, 07:57 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 4 Dec 2019, 07:58 ]

Aaron Moyne is a former worker at Yara; a former branch official of the Yara district committee of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union; a former haelth and safety officer and labour relations officer of the union.
The Norwegian energy giant Norsk Hydro acquired the Braun ammonia plant in 1991- then known as Federation Chemicals (or FedChem)- the name probably as tribute to Dr. Eric Williams’ pursuit of the West Indian Federation. It was their first venture into the Americas, wholly owning the country’s oldest ammonia plant Hydro Agri Trinidad Ltd (HATL) and entering into a 49% stakeholder Joint Venture in Tringen 1 (built in 1977) and Tringen 2 (built in 1987) with the Government of Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (GORTT).

The availability of large quantities of cheap natural gas, a skilled and relatively low-cost labor force, its proximity to American continental markets, among other factors drew and kept the Norwegian entrepreneurs for 29 years. Not only were the Norwegians drawn to the honey-comb of natural gas, but the United States’- Atlantic LNG, Farmland MissChem, Canadians- PCS Nitrogen, French- Air Liquide, Germans- Proman (IPSL), Indians- Mittal and other transnationals.

They came, they saw and they tapped into the non renewable resources of our nation to advance their motherland. Natural gas and Petroleum became the new sugar cane. British Petroleum (bpTT), American Oil Company (Amoco), Enron Oil and Gas Resources (EOG), British Gas (BG) and the Spaniards’ Repsol dominate(d) the deep water gas drilling and supply to the National Gas Company (the NGC) decade after decade using local offshore talent but only to an extent.

The GORTT never invested in developing total local drilling capacity but remained content to collect taxes/ royalties at a nominal value to the final products’ market value. Every administration represented their own interests via brown paper bags, containers and wire transfers while misrepresenting ours at the various gas contract negotiations tables .

Discipline, Tolerance and Corruption became our new watchwords as O’Halloran to Hart and others ravaged our patrimony without consequence. Somehow politicians are convinced it is their sworn duty to grab everything their hands can grasp when companies under their remit prosper. They choose to be blind to the fact that global markets are cyclical. Thus, when commodity prices are low, companies must either be shutdown and loyal citizens retrenched.

Yara was faced with low ammonia prices and further markets (change from North American to Far East markets) thereby increasing the cost of shipping their product. In their latest negotiations bid for natural gas the GORTT decided to increase the preferential price of natural gas given to Yara and its predecessor, WR Grace. The net result of that decision, Yara stated, puts its flagship plant out of business and threatens the viability of the other two joint ventures.

The GORTT suggested Yara should have been running its operations more efficiently over the years and should not now be seeking concessions. Workers, represented by the OWTU, continuously lobbied for upgraded equipment, suitable manpower and processes to ensure the viability of the Yara Plant. They were never involved in final decision making but are the lambs to pay the ultimate price. Yara’s local management team would have also petitioned their principals for capital projects, all contingent on securing a favorable gas price.

A widely known fact is that one molecule of ammonia and methanol secures higher returns than liquified natural gas. Yet it is the government’s policy to religiously supply the trains at the expense of increased returns for the country. When it is eventually depleted we will remember how we sheepishly allowed our leaders of the day to squander that which we borrowed from future generations. The Wolf would have then devoured yet another village who ignored its approaching howls. It is high time we arise and defend our nation’s wealth from wolves and foxes within and without!