Jagdeo questions GPL plan to acquire natural gas-only generating plant

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has questioned the move by Guyana Power and Light Inc (GPL) to acquire a natural gas-propelled 50-megawatt (MW) generating plant, saying that no evidence of research has been provided to justify the change from the use of heavy fuel.

“We do not have a feasibility study on natural gas and the efficacy of it being used to generate power in Guyana. So this government is going to now amend their requests for Expressions of Interest  for a type of power plant that we have done no feasibility study on as to whether it is suitable for Guyana or not,” Jagdeo told a press conference on Wednesday as he made reference to a Stabroek News report.

On Monday, this newspaper reported that just over two months after it said it was seeking a dual-fuel 50 MW generating plant, GPL altered the advertisement so that it pertains only to natural gas.

On September 3, GPL, in an advertisement, had invited expressions of interest (EoIs) for a 50 MW dual fuel – Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) and Natural Gas–fired power plant in or around Georgetown, the East Bank of Demerara or the East Coast of Demerara.

The change to natural gas is due to the expectation that it will become available from ExxonMobil’s oil extraction operations beginning in 2020.

The September 3rd ad had said that ExxonMobil’s affiliate, Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL) has uncovered commercial quantities of oil and gas in the Stabroek block, approximately 120 miles offshore. It said that EEPGL estimated that between 30 [and] 50 million cubic feet per day of natural gas could be made available for electricity generation in Guyana.

Though ExxonMobil/EEGPL have referred to the gas find, early questions had been raised about the feasibility of piping this gas to the coast from such a far distance. The option of re-injecting the gas back into the well had also been floated.

GPL’s ad of September 3rd had also pointed to the likely growth in future power demand as a reason for seeking the 50 MW plant. GPL said it was forecasting that Guyana’s electricity demand will  more than double in the coming decade and existing plants would be decommissioned in the medium term. It said that the plant was targeted to be in operation by 2020.

With a current installed capacity of 174.39 MW, it would mean that GPL is seeking a new plant that represents 28.6% of current generation. GPL’s seeking of this new plant will also raise eyebrows because of ongoing chronic problems in its aged transmission and distribution system. Despite numerous promises, GPL’s system has been hit by an avalanche of trips and shutdowns in recent months.

Jagdeo stressed this position, saying that he understands the number of new customers will increase by 25,000 and it will add strain to an already poorly functioning system. “Even if by a long stretch of the imagination this project materialises by 2020… how does that solve the blackouts now? They are arguing that 25,000 more will have electricity so you are bringing more demand into the system but you don’t have more generating capacity and the existing capacity is already stressed,” he said.

He also pointed out the question of Guyana’s commitment to a green economy, saying that having a natural gas generator emitting greenhouse gases was contrary to the pledges this country has made.

“The government has pledged to the international community to have 100 per cent of its energy come from renewable resources by 2025. This is contrary to that pledge,” he stressed

Norway, which is in a forest partnership with Guyana, has already balked at the proposal from the government that natural gas be an integral part of the country’s green energy plan.

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