Caribbean gas pipeline behind schedule

Feb 23, 2004 01:00 AM

Two years after it was first announced by Prime Minister Patrick Manning, the much touted Intra-Caribbean Gas pipeline project appears to be making, at best, slow progress with it being almost a year behind schedule.
The proponents of the project -- which has the government support of Trinidad and Tobago -- have finally been able to secure the money needed to do the feasibility study on the project with Guardian Life providing the funds. It was expected that the feasibility study would have started since June last year but it has not been forthcoming. In addition, there are significant legal and legislative obstacles to be overcome if the project is to get off the ground.

Energy Minister Eric Williams pointed to some of those obstacles when he addressed the recent South Trinidad Chamber Energy Conference in which he noted that it was discovered that legislation would be needed in the islands to allow the pipeline to pass through their territorial waters. But sources say this was known by Government and the Energy Minister from the very start of the project.
Chairman of the National Gas Company Keith Awong admitted that the project was well behind schedule.

He said: "While the NGC has been asked to coordinate the efforts we are not ourselves involved in doing the actual work and it is true to say that we are behind where we expected it to be buy this stage."
Awong added; "The proponents had some funding problems in terms of doing the study but I think that has now been sorted out with Guardian Life and I believe another regional company helping out so hopefully we can now move forward." Also, there are certain concerns raised by both Barbados and Grenada over territorial demarcation matters which they hope to negotiate with Trinidad and Tobago.

The intra-Caribbean gas pipeline project is expected to cost $ 510 mm-$ 600 mm and would be 596 miles long, which would include shore approaches and the lateral line to Barbados. The pipeline would vary from 20-inches for the southern trunk route between Trinidad and Grenada, and ten-inches for the Barbados lateral.
The pipeline would be used to generate electric power in the concerned territories, where demand for electric power is expected to rise by at about 3 % a year. Energy cost reductions would be as high as 40-50 % for power companies using No. 2 fuel oil to generate electricity.

Trinidad and Tobago has been trying to convince the French that it could significantly reduce the price of electricity in the French islands while providing it with cleaner fuel. It is understood that Trinidad and Tobago has suggested that piped natural gas could be landed in the French dependants at cost of $ 3 per mm Btu as opposed to $ 5.58 per mm Btu being paid for fuel oil.
Proponents of the project including the Manning administration and the Intra-Caribbean Gas Pipeline Company have all acknowledged it was only possible if the pipeline ends at the French dependants of Martinique and Guadeloupe since those islands have the size of population and potential gas use to make it feasible.

It is understood that the French Government wants a piece of the action but it is limited by the fact that its national energy company Total only has interest in BHP's Greater Angostura find which BHP already has indicated would be an exclusively oil producing find for the first few years with the gas being used to lift the crude, after which it would be willing to sell gas commercially from its field.
President of the National Gas Company (NGC), Frank Look Kin admitted that the French are yet to be brought on board.
He said: "I am not at liberty to talk about the project because of an agreement we have signed with Intra-Caribbean Gas Pipeline Company but it is true to say that the French dependants have not yet been convinced that they should be part of the project and you know it is important that they are part of it since we are talking about an expenditure.”

Source: Trinidad Express
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