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Jai Leladharsingh

Gail Alexander

The Confederation of Regional Business Chambers is concerned at the lack of word on negotiations between the National Gas Company (NGC) and Methanol Holdings Ltd (MHTL) on MHTL’s expired gas supply contract.

MHTL was forced to idle its M4 and M5000 plants last Thursday after failing to reach an economically viable gas supply contract with NGC.

Proman Limited T&T operates MHTL. A major local employer for more than 30 years its family of companies employs over 1,000 employees. Proman managing director Claus Cronberger who told employees about the contract issue emphasised the company’s commitment to negotiations with NGC and resolution of the matter.

He said his number one priority is to sustain operations and secure the livelihoods of all and at this time he didn’t foresee any negative impact on employee headcount.

Cronberger added: “However if we are forced to take steps to shut down any of our plants over a longer period, we will need to revisit the impact on our entire operations.”

He acknowledged it was an unsettling time for employees.

NGC said it’s committed to negotiating towards resolution.

Energy Minister Franklin Khan didn’t answer calls on the issue yesterday but officials said there have been no talks between the two parties since March 31 and so far no dates have been set for negotiation.

The MHTL/NGC development has been reported globally. The Oil Now publication reported that concern is mounting in T&T about the gas industry’s future.

When news of the expired contract broke last Thursday morning the Confederation responded immediately citing deep concerns and anxieties.

“The Confederation urges that the spirit and prevalence of goodwill, mutual understanding and compromise will be the context for how these negotiations will be continually managed and conducted,” the group said in a statement.

“The national economy and global economy are experiencing deep uncertainties and any further disruptions would have very dire consequences on the economic, business and social landscapes. We urge NGC and Proman to remain at the negotiating table and work assiduously to ratify the thorny issues that need to be addressed, and arrive at an amicable solution in the shortest possible time.”

Yesterday Confederation co-ordinator Jai Leladharsingh added: “Members whose industries are the lifeblood of people’s communities around Trinidad and Tobago stand to be affected by this. It can have a deep impact on national economic structures. Its outcome has bearing on Trinidad and Tobago’s image, investment climate and confidence locally and internationally. We also want to know when further gas exploration will be done.”

Opposition MP David Lee, who criticised the Government’s handling of the negotiations as unprogressive given the current grim economic situation, said investors should be encouraged to stay rather than demotivated and forced to move out.

Lee said up to January seven companies had closed or their plants forced to idle.

“These shutdowns, like the other major petrochemical plant shutdowns in the past months, are a direct result of the PNM Government’s failed gas price negotiations which were done in Houston, as well as an inability to address the gas shortage,” he said.

“There can be no blaming COVID-19 or global market conditions as since 2017 we’ve seen major petrochemical plants shutdown with giants such as Yara closing down in 2019, all because of unattractive conditions created by Government.”