Trinidad and Tobago: Natural Gas Crisis

(Trinidad Express, 23.Apr.2023) — The country’s lone cooking gas producer and several petrochemical plants at Point Lisas have been shut down amid a full-blown natural gas crisis triggered by an electrical fire at bpTT’s Mahogany hub and continued mechanical issues at its Cassia C platform.

The Sunday Express has been told that for now there is a sufficient supply of the cooking gas LPG to meet public need, and that the problems should be resolved by next weekend to avoid a cooking gas shortage.

Meanwhile, the National Gas Company (NGC) has been scrambling to ensure the Point Lisas Industrial Estate is not totally shut down while working with electricity provider T&TEC to ensure the lights are kept on.

The State-owned natural gas company told the Sunday Express, “NGC is currently experiencing gas supply challenges in meeting total customer demand requirements; however, we are continuing to work closely with all of our suppliers and customers including T&TEC to rectify the situation at the earliest opportunity.”

The Sunday Express has confirmed NGC has been working to ensure key infrastructure is not damaged and the Point Lisas Estate is not shut down.

It has asked several plants to come offline to assist in rationing gas.

At present, Phoenix Gas Processors Ltd’s (PPGPL) M3 and M4, some of Nutrien’s plants, as well as New Iron are all down to try to save on natural gas and avoid damage to its plants.

Others are operating at a bare minimum.

The NGC told the Sunday Express, “The upstream gas supply situation is a dynamic one and all of the gas suppliers are providing as much volumes that they can to NGC; however two of our major gas suppliers are undertaking critical maintenance activities which has resulted in insufficient gas supply to meet full demand.

“We are however working closely with our customers to manage the situation to ensure NGC network pressures do not result in unstable operations or process safety incident.”

It added, “Some plants are offline to assist with managing network pressures to ensure a reliable supply of the available gas volumes.”

Letter from Loquan

So worried is the NGC about a major incident at Point Lisas stemming from the gas shortages that over the Easter weekend NGC president Mark Loquan wrote to the chief executives of all the companies on the industrial estate, warning of the challenges and asking for cooperation.

The Sunday Express has gotten a copy of the memo, which reads, “We are currently experiencing continued unplanned supply challenges with a supplier and we are currently running the system pressures very low.

“We have made arrangements with other suppliers to offset the impact but still requires curtailment to be enforced. This is likely to continue until the end of April. Our control room will continue to be in contact with your respective control rooms with any change.

“Thanks for your patience and we will continue to provide updates if there are any further changes. Have a good long weekend. Regards, Mark.”

The situation is going to damage the Government’s coffers and, so far, neither Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley nor Energy Minister Stuart Young has said a word about it, even though they have been aware of the situation for more than a week.

BpTT has confirmed having problems and said it was working to find solutions.

It was asked directly about a fire that was confirmed to the Sunday Express by multiple sources. Instead, the multinational suggested it was a mechanical problem.

“Bp Trinidad and Tobago (bpTT) can confirm that on 16 April there was an unplanned mechanical disruption on our Mahogany B hub requiring the facility to be taken offline temporarily. The mechanical issue has been rectified and the facility is back online.”

With respect to Cassia C, the company said it is trying to maximise output from other parts of its producing assets.

“We have been carefully managing the ramp-up process for Cassia C which came online in November and are currently addressing issues at the facility which have impacted production. We have been working to mitigate any impacts by maximising production from our other facilities,” bpTT told the Sunday Express.

Mahogany is the hub for several of bpTT’s natural gas-producing fields, including Mahogany itself, Juniper/Savonette and Matapal.

Cassia C was expected to stop the slide in bpTT’s production, but it has not met expectations so far. Woefully over budget and behind schedule, the project has not produced the level of low-pressure gas and has had problems from the start.

Ramnarine: Four-year struggle

Former energy minister Kevin Ramnarine told the Sunday Express he expected the country to continue to have natural gas challenges for the next four years.

He explained, “Natural gas supply will struggle for the next four years until the Manatee project delivers first gas in 2027. That is a long time away. The question is what happens in the interim.”

He noted that natural gas production fell under three billion cubic feet per day in 2021, and it has stayed there ever since.

He does not expect it to go back above three billion cubic feet per day anytime soon.

“There is even a scenario where it could go under 2.5 billion cubic feet per day in a few years. The rate of investment in drilling offshore is simply not enough to counter the natural decline of reservoirs. This situation is directly related to the fiscal regime which is not competitive enough and needed to be changed.

“That has not happened and will likely not happen, given the stance of the government toward the fiscal regime. As for Dragon and Venezuela…that continues to be a low-probability scenario,” Ramnarine added.

It is understood that in T&T the first use of gas must go to electricity generation before any other plants.

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