Caribbean nations promote Trinidad-based subsea gas pipeline
Efforts are under way to promote development of a subsea natural gas pipeline system from Trinidad and Tobago
northward through the Caribbean Sea and possibly ending on the North American mainland at Miami. Already a
pre-feasibility study has been completed, and at a recent heads of government meeting of the 15-member Caribbean
regional economic union (Caricom), the leaders agreed in principle to the project.
The initial intent is to take gas from the island of Trinidad through the Caribbean as far as the French dependencies of Martinique and Guadeloupe, but there is also the possibility of the gas reaching Miami. To take gas to Miami via Puerto Rico would significantly complicate the project and increase costs, but it would also provide an enormous potential market for the Caribbean island's natural gas.
Trevor Boopsingh, whose Trinidadian company, Ken S. Jay, is conducting the feasibility study on behalf of the
Caribbean governments, said gas could start flowing through the regional pipeline as early as 2006 if the smaller
project is pursued and all goes well. But it would take a significantly longer time for a larger project to come to
He said, "It is still (in the) early stages, but we know that the smaller project could cost in the vicinity of $ 500 mm to $ 750 mm and take between 3 and 4 years from decision to implementation."
The smaller project would see the construction of a 20-inch pipeline extending up the Caribbean island chain to
Martinique and Guadeloupe. It would supply all the islands, including Barbados, with spurs to Antigua, Barbuda, St.
Kitts-Nevis, and Dominica.
Most of the gas is expected to be used by the islands' power companies, with total demand estimated at 150200 mm cfpd. The demand is expected to grow with the development of the islands' manufacturing sector and increased use of electricity due to tourism development and population growth.
A study done by consultant Guillermo Torres for OLADE (Latin American Energy Organization), "Incorporating natural
gas into the energy matrix of the Caribbean," forecasts that Barbados's need for gas would increase to 21.89 mm cfpd
by 2015 from 12.19 mm cfpd in 2004. Guyana would require about 8.2 mm cfpd to 2009, rising to 12.09 mm cfpd
The power plants' switch to natural gas should significantly reduce electricity costs in the islands and lead to environmental benefits as they move away from diesel-powered generators, the study noted.
Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning told the Caricom meeting that his proposal is an attempt to assist
his country's less-fortunate neighbours.
He said, "These arrangements hold out a promise of a reduction of 30 % in energy costs, including electricity, and would guarantee these countries price stability and predictability over the medium to long term. However, because of the small size of the islands and their minor projected demand volumes, it is crucial that Martinique and Guadeloupe agree to purchase the gas,” Boopsingh said.
"The two French speaking islands hold sway to the project, since close to 70 % of the gas would be sold to them. As a result, discussions have already begun with the French power company (Electricite de France) with a view to having (the islands) switch to natural gas."
CNG alternative Manning noted that if the smaller project is pursued, it would be necessary for the larger Caricom
countries to be supplied by alternative arrangements. He said, "New technology in compressed natural gas suggests
Jamaica, Haiti, and Guyana can be supplied by this mechanism. Belize would be supplied through an appropriate
arrangement with Mexico, while a proposal is still being developed to supply the Bahamas." Officials from National
Gas Co. of Trinidad and Tobago say CNG is the way to go for the larger islands.
NGC's manager of strategic planning Gregory McGuire, said CNG could be competitive where LNG would not be feasible nor a pipeline economic. Manning told the Caricom heads of government, "The proposal can be facilitated if each country that proposes to utilize the pipeline retains a participating interest in its ownership."
NBC's role NGC has been given a mandate to drive the project forward, and its chairman, Keith Awong, said he is
confident the project would "fly" and even held out hope that the larger pipeline taking gas to the US could be
built. He said, "We know there is a major trench just off Puerto Rico and the technical challenges that poses, but
with the new technology that is available and which is likely to become available over the next 2-3 years," the
pipeline could be built.
However, Awong said both projects faced major challenges besides the technical ones: "You would recognize that there are significant geopolitical issues, jurisdictional issues, and these kinds of things. The question of a submarine pipeline also brings With it questions of security of supply. Is one pipeline going to be satisfactory for the users? Are they going to be satisfied with utilizing gas on the basis of a single pipeline? I think it is early in the game to decide which project we would pursue."
He said there are also legal issues to be dealt with, because many of the Caricom countries would have to pass legislation to facilitate the pipeline.
Awong told, "You have to understand that in some of these countries they do not even have legislation on pipelines
and other issues that may relate to the energy sector. This may take even longer than it would take to implement the
EOG supplier EOG Resources, Houston, is expected to supply the gas for the pipeline and has taken a lead role in the project. Its managing director in Trinidad, Lyndell Looger, said the rationale is simply to sell as much gas as possible: "EOG's business plan is pretty simple. Our goal is to go look for gas, find gas, and sell gas. Liquids are nice, crude oil is nice, but in the end our business is not ammonia, it is not pipelines, but (these are) the sort of business lines we are willing to get into and try to master to sell our gas."