TOGY talks to
High-impact projects in TrinidadAugust 30, 2018
Vernon Paltoo, president of National Energy Corporation, talks to TOGY about the company’s asset expansion plans and the development of new projects. A wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Gas Company (NGC), National Energy is responsible for the marine logistics and port operations of Trinidad and Tobago’s industrial estates.
• On Galeota’s potential: “The Galeota port is the best location for a draught expansion, so as to allow larger vessels to utilise the facility. That is part of our plan to allow companies to do business in Guyana and allow other entities to take advantage of our facilities.”
• On regional support: “It will take a few years to develop a deepwater port in Guyana, therefore in the interim, there is a clear synergy. We can provide support with the necessary infrastructure to facilitate the development of the Guyanese industry in a timely fashion while it develops on its own.”
• On key focus: “We are presently focusing on asset reliability and asset integrity. That is an integral part of our strategic plan in terms of moving forward with efficient and available assets for our commercial business on the strategic side. We are focused on developing appropriate infrastructure for current and future national projects, as well as expanding the energy sector in new and innovative areas.”
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What plans does National Energy have to expand the Port of Brighton?
The Port of Brighton is literally filled to capacity in terms of utilisation. That is compounded by the fact that we have to use a substantial portion of that facility for the export of methanol, which requires a semi-dedicated facility. To position Trinidad and Tobago for the benefit of our tenants and the energy services sector, we need to expand that port.
The immediate plan for the Brighton port is to engage in a public-private partnership exercise, subject to approval by the government, to allow for the expansion of that facility to allow additional service industries, as well as new activities such as ship repair, containerised cargo storage facilities and other ship- and energy-related services facilities.
Are there plans to improve the Port of Galeota’s capabilities in light of upcoming oil and gas activity in Guyana?
The Port of Galeota is restricted by its 7.6-metre draught. We cannot fit large ocean-going vessels there, even though we have recently facilitated a few international vessels. Galeota is currently utilised by several E&P services providers operating on the east coast. That being said, that asset is strategically positioned to allow for expansion based on bigger ships and the emerging markets in South America.
For example, it takes about 11 or 12 hours to reach the offshore platform in Guyana from that country’s coast. It will take 26 hours to reach the offshore platform from the Port of Galeota for a vessel traveling at average speed. If we have to do the trip from La Brea, it takes an additional 10 hours to reach the offshore platform. Therefore, the Galeota port is the best location for a draught expansion, so as to allow larger vessels to utilise the facility. That is part of our plan to allow companies to do business in Guyana and allow other entities to take advantage of our facilities.
It should be noted that this is an intermediary solution while Guyana develops its own ports and resources. It will take a few years to develop a deepwater port in Guyana, therefore in the interim, there is a clear synergy. We can provide support with the necessary infrastructure to facilitate the development of the Guyanese industry in a timely fashion while it develops on its own.
What work is National Energy doing in the renewable energy sector?
Both wind turbine and solar utility projects were being developed by National Energy. However, the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries has initiated an expression of interest for renewable energy projects. In this regard, all of the renewable energy utility-scale projects that were being developed by National Energy are now encompassed in the expression of interest exercise. We are working closely with the energy ministry to provide the support required for conducting that exercise.
Energy efficiency and manufacturing are also both important aspects of the renewable energy industry. As such, we have placed these together with utility generation projects under the umbrella of sustainable energy development as part of our strategic framework. This also involves driving energy efficiency initiatives; for example, installing more efficient systems such as LED lighting in community centres, schools and playgrounds; as well as looking at overall energy efficiency, not from buildings alone, but also in terms of energy efficiency in process plants. These activities are all being done in conjunction with our line ministry.
What are some of the projects currently being developed?
We have made substantial advancements in terms of developing a solar park project, which goes towards manufacturing MPV [modular photovoltaic] cells. It is a four-plant project that involves taking the raw materials from neighbouring countries, using them in a metallurgical silicon plant, then a polysilicon plant, followed by a glass-melting plant, and then taking the product to the PV cell plant.
This is a large project worth about USD 1.2 billion. We are looking to do this project either in phases, or all together. We have engaged various international investors, as well as potential partners for structuring and financing the project.
This is a new type of project for us, and we are doing a lot of engagement in terms of proper planning for execution. Marketing will be key as far as product offtake is concerned, and we are looking primarily at targeting regional Caribbean and Latin American markets. In this regard, we have made substantial progress in terms of identifying and communicating with potential markets and technology providers, as well as financial agencies. We expect to start the project in 2020.
How will National Energy finance the project?
There are presently a lot of financing options available for renewable energy projects. We are discussing proposals with several parties at this time, but it will most likely be a mix of multilateral and private financing.
Why is this project important for National Energy?
In the context that we have less available gas resources for developing large petrochemicals projects, we are seeking to develop other types of industries that will create the same economic effect as the petrochemicals industries, but use significantly smaller volumes of gas. The MPV manufacturing project is one such opportunity, because very minimal quantities of gas will be used, but the impact in terms of employment, GDP and revenue has the same effect as several petrochemicals plants.
Is National Energy considering other manufacturing projects related to the energy industry?
Yes; one of those projects involves the manufacture of engineered wood using Trinidad-supplied melamine as one of the key ingredients. This is targeted for our estate at La Brea. In summary, this is an engineered wood project that looks to manufacture a high-value product using our indigenous materials.
We have done quite a lot of work in terms of due diligence and are progressing to the next stage, where we will partner with the universities to do testing and project development work. We have already engaged several of the key stakeholders to introduce a unique product to the market.
It is about being innovative in an environment where gas supplies are more difficult to access. That being said, we always plan for the future. We also continue to plan for the assumption that there will be new gas in the future and how we can further develop the industry and the country for a stream of additional gas resources, perhaps in five to 10 years from now.
What is National Energy’s main focus for 2018?
We are presently focusing on asset reliability and asset integrity. That is an integral part of our strategic plan in terms of moving forward with efficient and available assets for our commercial business on the strategic side. We are focused on developing appropriate infrastructure for current and future national projects, as well as expanding the energy sector in new and innovative areas.
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