Multi-billion energy investments for T&T

(Trinidad Guardian) T&T could expect $23 billion in investments in the downstream energy sector over the next four years, according to “a secret” Ministry of Energy document.

The projects have the potential to create thousands of jobs during construction and hundreds of high-paying jobs when operations begin.

The document, obtained by the Sunday Guardian, identifies six projects that National Energy is actively pursuing and which the company feels confident of bringing to fruition. The projects range from a methanol to polyolefin plant, two aluminium-based, and one melamine-based downstream operation.

However, an energy economist has warned that the Government should be careful not to count the proverbial eggs before they hatch. The document notes that except for the methanol to olefins complex, the other projects do not require significant natural gas.

However, there is caution since for the last five years T&T has had natural gas shortages, creating possible difficulties for any new investments.

The projects list includes:

1. An Aluminium Ingot Processing Wire and Cable Plant.

2. An Aluminium Ingot Processing Flats Complex.

3. A Solar Park Cluster comprising four plants.

4. A Methanol to Polyolefin plant.

5. A TTPV Wind plant.

6. A Derivative Melamine-based project.

The document reads: “The estimated capital investment for these projects is US $3.5 Bn. All of these projects except for the Methanol to Polyolefin Project are expected to use a minimal volume of natural gas.

The estimated gas usage for the Aluminium Ingot Processing Flats Complex is circa 14 Million standard cubic feet per day and for the Methanol to Polyolefin in 1.73 million tonnes per annum.”

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has in the past indicated that there were several energy projects which the Government was working on, but which they were not ready to announce.

The Sunday Guardian reached out to National Energy for details on the projects including their various stages of development. The company argued that it could not give details because of confidentiality agreements and the fear that speaking publicly could compromise the integrity of negotiations.

National Energy’s email response stated: “National Energy consistent with its mandate from GORTT is currently developing a range of projects in the national interest of Trinidad and Tobago.

These projects are at varying stages of development and are the subject of Confidentiality Agreements with respective stakeholders.

Therefore, any disclosure of the details of projects at this juncture would compromise the integrity of the Agreements. When projects are developed to an appropriate stage, public announcements would be issued by the relevant entities.”

ECONOMIST: A ‘LITANY OF PROJECTS’ THAT MAY OR MAY NOT COME TO FRUITION

However, Energy Economist Gregory McGuire said while it is good that National Energy is pursuing these projects because it shows that there is interest in them from potential investors, the reality is that they are merely a “litany of projects” that may or may not come to fruition.

McGuire points out that many of these very projects were being worked on during the Patrick Manning administration with companies keen to invest in the country, and then the financial crisis hit, the gas shortage became apparent, and a decade later there is no investment decision.

“If I were the Government I would not even speak of these projects until I have an investment decision. Projects have a long gestation decision, and no one knows for sure if they will be successful, but the fact is that they are working on them and that is a clear sign there is interest and a possibility of it happening,” McGuire told the Sunday Guardian.

He said due to the limited amount of natural gas that the projects need it gives them a better chance of coming to a final investment decision.

He pointed to the aluminium projects that in his view will require more electricity than natural gas and with the country having excess installed electricity capacity, could be a good fit.

The economist admits that there will be those who argue such projects do nothing to diversify the economy, but he said should they come to pass they would increase the Government’s revenues and valuable foreign exchange.

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