State owned National Energy, which has as its mandate the conceptualisation, promotion, development and facilitation of energy-based and downstream industries in Trinidad and Tobago has only delivered one project in the last twelve years and none in the last five years.
The only project the company has delivered is the Caribbean Gas Chemicals, methanol to DME plant, which five years after construction started is yet to export a single metric tonne of methanol.
That project was itself embroiled in controversy as it was seen as an attempt by the then People’s Partnership to claim a win before it left office. There were also issues surrounding the gas price, with strong suggestions that it was more favourable than many other companies at the Point Lisas Industrial Estate are now receiving.
Business Guardian asked National Energy what has been its record in delivering on its core mandate and National Energy explained that it had slightly shifted its focus and said this was in part caused by the gas challenges T&T faces.
The company said, “In terms of heavy industrial (gas-based) projects, National Energy has facilitated the development of the Gas to Petrochemicals Complex owned by Caribbean Gas Chemical Limited (CGCL). That plant was constructed on the National Energy-owned Union Industrial Estate and is currently in the Commissioning Phase. The value of the capital expenditure for this project is approximately USD 1 Billion.”
It added, “Initially, these industries would have been centred around natural gas, but given the country’s current lower natural gas volume scenario, and in keeping with Vision 2030: The National Development Strategy 2016-2030, National Energy continues to aggressively advance projects on this basis.”
Chairman Conrad Enill admitted that the company had not been able to deliver heavy gas based projects and said a lot of its time over the last five years have been spent trying to maintain its ports and facilities and trying to improve its efficiency.
While he promised that there would be a renewed focus for National Energy, he stressed that it will continue to deal with a challenging and changing energy environment, both locally and globally.
As part of this changed environment National Energy boasts that it has been able to focus on Renewables (RE) and Energy Efficiency (EE) Initiatives.
In response to questions from BG the company crowed that it was currently facilitating the Utility Scale Renewable Energy Project headed by a consortium comprising bpTT, ShellTT and Lightsource Renewable Global Development Limited and currently assessing an opportunity for State participation in this project.
It must be noted that Lightsource, BPTT and Shell put in a joint response to a Request For Proposals for a Utility Scale project and therefore cannot be seen as a project brought to the country by National Energy.
National Energy said in 2019 it completed a Super Esco Strategic Business Model Assessment in conjunction with the IDB.
‘This Assessment examined a mechanism to facilitate the implementation of energy efficiency initiatives across the commercial and industrial sectors. We are currently evaluating options to execute a pilot project in 2021.” National Energy noted.
It added, “As a member of the Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency Committee (a 2019 Cabinet-formed Committee), National Energy contributed to the development of the Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency Policy and Action Plan for Trinidad and Tobago 2020-2024.”
Even though the company has not been able to secure gas based projects it said it is still focused on gas based industries and regional LNG Value Chain Opportunities in the area of Marine Bunkering and is something it is looking into having completed in 2019 a regional market assessment and are developing models for implementation.
In chemicals, the company said, it was developing new approaches and business models for chemical industry expansion, including biochemicals and specific metals geared towards a green economy.
National Energy told BG it is pursuing projects that adopt low(er) carbon technologies to support a decarbonisation strategy.
“For Trinidad and Tobago, there is a significant opportunity to produce hydrogen, with particular emphasis as an input into the well-established petrochemical sector. We see hydrogen technology as critical, not only for decarbonisation of the sector, but also to add a significant element of long-term economic sustainability to the local energy sector.” National Energy said.
The government has already taken action and National Energy last year lost its opportunity to do phase two of the Galeota port expansion.
Enill said there will be changes coming in the way things are done throughout the NGC Group including National Energy.
The company told BG that it was laying the foundation for the future of investment facilitation and promotion by leveraging technology for investment facilitation and promotion.
In pointed to its ttEngage investment facilitation platform which has seen significant interest from potential investors.
The last gas based project that National Energy brought to fruition prior to CGCL was the Methanol Holdings investment. Time will tell whether the new term of the new government will see improved performance.