Trinidad and Tobago’s downstream potential

As an established global petrochemicals exporter, Trinidad is well positioned to take the lead as a green commodity producer.

in figures

Country’s yearly methanol production capacity: 6 million tonnes

Country’s yearly ammonia production capacity: 5.2 million tonnes

Trinidad and Tobago’s downstream potential

April 23, 2024

Despite the global energy transition, Trinidad and Tobago’s downstream sector, centred at the Point Lisas Industrial Estate, is thriving and making plans to step up production with anticipated new supplies of natural gas. Products such as methanol and ammonia also have a key role to play in the booming market for clean fuels.

Trinidad and Tobago, despite its relatively small size, boasts decades of history as a global downstream producer and exporter. The first ammonia plant in the country began operating in 1959 located on the Point Lisas Industrial Estate and 25 years later, it was followed by the initiation of the nation’s first methanol facility.
To date, Trinidad’s Point Lisas Industrial Estate houses 10 ammonia, eight methanol and two urea plants owned by various local and international entities. Alongside a thriving global LNG market share, primarily through the flagship Atlantic LNG facility, the country holds the greatest potential in the Caribbean and Latin American regions to take the lead as a downstream commodity producer.
The country’s installed infrastructure has an annual production capacity of 5.2 million tonnes of ammonia and 6 million tonnes of methanol. With brownfield facilities and more than 50 years of experience in the downstream commodities market, Trinidad and Tobago is well equipped and advantaged, in both infrastructure and expertise to remain a regional leader in the petrochemicals market. However, where this advantage is most clear is in the wake of the global energy transition and regional energy developments.


NEW INVESTMENT: For multinationals such as petrochemicals giant Proman, Trinidadian assets represent a future aligned with global decarbonisation goals, as in 2022 the company announced plans to invest more than USD 1.1 billion in plant overhauls on its Point Lisas assets. The company, headquartered in Switzerland, has been advocating the use of methanol as a cleaner aviation and bunkering fuel.
Proman and Stena Bulk embarked on a joint venture to construct six newbuild methanol-fuelled vessels, the first of which was named in a ceremony held in Port of Spain on November 23, 2022. For Trinidad, this represents a dual opportunity: to simultaneously attract more global attention and develop an increased demand from the methanol market, and to further develop world-class expertise and infrastructure.
As a regional hub for shipping and logistics, particularly for energy markets such as Guyana and Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago is helped by investments and developments such as these in setting a trajectory for regional decarbonisation goals in the maritime sector.

NGC’S ROLE: The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (NGC) has taken an active role in emphasising the need for an energy transition and has set its sights on expanding its trading portfolio. In February 2022, NGC entered a partnership with Proman to lift methanol cargo from Methanol Holdings, and in October 2023 it signed a gas sales contract (GSC) with Methanex as part of a strategic undertaking to restart the idled Titan methanol plant, which has a capacity to produce up to 875,000 tonnes per year.
In addition to expanding its trading portfolio and bolstering the country’s methanol production, NGC also signed two new GSCs in Q4 2023: one with Proman to support ammonia production at the CNC and N2000 plants and another with Nutrien to support ammonia and urea production at Nutrien’s production complex in Point Lisas. Ammonia production remains critical for Trinidad and Tobago’s economy, with the country ranking as the largest ammonia exporter of 2022.

GREEN HYDROGEN: As nations such as Saudi Arabia, China, Australia, Canada and the USA plan greenfield projects for green hydrogen, the Point Lisas estate has a golden opportunity in the green commodities market due to its existing petrochemicals facilities. As an established global petrochemicals exporter, Trinidad is well positioned to take the lead as a green commodity producer.
According to industry experts and engineers, to achieve this would require some additional engineering on brownfield assets to incorporate renewable energy sources for the production of green hydrogen. which can then be piped to ammonia and methanol facilities. Consequently, using ammonia as a carrier, this opens the market for Trinidad to become a global green hydrogen exporter to markets where hydrogen can be utilised as a fuel source.
In November 2022, the government of Trinidad and Tobago – represented by National Energy, a subsidiary of NGC – collaborated with the Inter-American Development Bank to present a roadmap for Trinidad and Tobago to develop a green hydrogen industry. The study was awarded to the world-class research and engineering company KBR.
The findings of the early studies determined the strongest potential for Trinidad and Tobago to source renewable energy lies in offshore wind primarily on the north and east coast. KBR findings indicate a potential to exploit an average of 57 GW of energy from this source alone, equating to a 25-GW energy output when accounting for the capacity factor of offshore wind technologies.
Second to offshore wind, solar energy represents the next best source of renewable power. Lightsource bp – a collaboration between energy giants BP and Shell – has already begun construction of a 148-KWp solar farm which presents the country with an opportunity to not only decarbonise but also streamline more natural gas feedstock into downstream commodity production or LNG sales.
In recent years, as petrochemicals plants remain locked in an ongoing struggle with a gas supply shortage, some have had to undergo shutdowns, which have consequently resulted in reduced production levels. Such a supply shortage has not only affected petrochemicals output but was also the reason behind Atlantic’s Train 1 shutdown in 2020.
In order to combat the upstream supply challenges, Trinidadian Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Stuart Young has actively engaged in negotiations with Venezuelan and US officials regarding the development of cross-border fields such as the Dragon and Loran-Manatee gasfields.
The Loran-Manatee field boasts approximately 283.3 bcm (10 tcf) of offshore gas reserves in total with approximately 76.5 bcm (2.7 tcf) accounting for the Manatee portion in sub-block 6d, which has been contracted to Shell for development and is expected to produce first gas between 2026 and 2028. The Dragon gasfield, located entirely in Venezuelan territory, contains an approximately 119-bcm (4.2-tcf) gas reservoir. Minister Young remains ambitious in negotiations that could bring this supply on line from as early as 2026 once existing infrastructure is leveraged. The Dragon field will be operated by Shell and linked to the Hibiscus platform in Trinidadian territory via an 18-kilometre pipeline.
Efforts to relieve Trinidad and Tobago’s upstream supply shortage are giving its downstream sector high hopes for a boost in production activity in the coming years. As noted by industry experts, natural gas will remain a relevant commodity for decades to come – traded as LNG and processed into petrochemical products – as the world takes progressive steps toward the green transition.
Trinidad and Tobago’s downstream sector has been well established for decades, and with existing processing facilities, developing regional energy markets and billions of dollars in upgrade investments by multinational companies, the nation has strong odds of remaining a global leader in LNG and fertiliser production, even in the wake of a global green energy transition.

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