Energy minister: Cheap gas 'unavailable' in Trinidad and Tobago

Curtis Williams
OGJ Correspondent

PORT OF SPAIN, Nov. 5 -- Inexpensive natural gas is no longer available to companies seeking to invest in downstream production in the Trinidad and Tobago’s energy sector, according to the Caribbean twin-island nation’s new Energy Minister Carolyn Seepersad Bachan.

Speaking at a ceremony to commission Methanol Holdings Trinidad Ltd.’s ammonia-urea, ammonium hitrate-melamine (AUM) complex, Seepersad Bachan said huge deposits of natural gas were no longer being discovered in shallow waters off Trinidad’s East Coast with the regularity of 15 years ago when a 1 tcf discovery was a disappointment.

The minister said the Trinidad and Tobago government realizes this posed challenges to the downstream sector but companies needed to accept the reality.

“The government of Trinidad and Tobago is committed to the expansion of the downstream sector. We need, however, to accept that that there is no more cheap gas available,” she said. “However, the government recognizes the challenges all new gas-based projects face in terms of cost structure and competitiveness, and as a result we will meet with all such companies to partner with you to identify creative and innovative strategies to address these challenges." She explained.

Earlier MHTL’s Chief Executive Rampersad Mootilal said gas increased to 70% of the company’s total cost, up from just 35%.

MHTL is the world’s second-largest methanol producer with five methanol plants and a total capacity of more than 4 million tonnes/year. MHTL is the largest methanol exporter to the US.

Despite the lack of continued cheap gas in Trinidad and Tobago, Mootilal said his company planned to continue its expansion and go further downstream of methanol.

Mootilal said MHTL’s plan is to take a significant position in any of their major products including melamine, in fertilizers and later on in resins and downstream of methanol.

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