Mon | Dec 11, 2017

LNG is catalyst for economic growth to wider Caribbean - stakeholder

Published:Tuesday | October 3, 2017 | 12:04 AMLynford Simpson

The introduction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Jamaica is being hailed as not just a catalyst for economic growth and environmental sustainability for the island, but the wider Caribbean region. That's the view of Brannen McElmurray, managing director of New Fortress Energy.

"As a clean, affordable and efficient fuel for power generation, natural gas is the best complement to renewable energy. Investments in energy infrastructure and a growing gas market in Jamaica are transforming the energy landscape and making Jamaica a clean-energy model for the region," McElmurray told The Gleaner ahead of a three-day natural gas conference in Kingston, beginning tomorrow. New Fortress is already working with the Jamaica Public service (JPS) to introduce LNG to Jamaica. The fuel is already in the island at the upgraded Bogue plant in Montego Bay, St James, and will be the fuel of choice at the 190-megawatt plant which is being constructed at Old Harbour Bay, St Catherine.

Highlighting that LNG was the gas of the future, McElmurray pointed to both the short and long-term benefits to be derived from the fuel.

"First of all, the transition to natural gas from other fossil fuels has immediate environmental benefits, because it is the cleanest and it significantly reduces emissions. With the investments made by New Fortress Energy and JPS, Jamaica will benefit from over 400 megawatts of clean and modern natural gas power generation. That's a significant step forward for the country's energy diversification efforts ,and will accelerate the integration of renewables," McElmurray stated.

He further explained that industrial users are able to benefit from the availability of natural gas to reduce their energy and power costs, while reducing emissions.

McElmurray noted that with the benefits of introducing natural gas, Jamalco will be able to reduce costs and boost production in its operations. And, he said Red Stripe's conversion to natural gas would provide more than US$300,000 (J$39 million) per year in savings for the beer company. "These benefits will be realised with additional growth and investments in the local economy and the creation of new jobs and a specialised workforce that will expand over the coming decade," the New Fortress boss added.

Environmental benefits

McElmurray pointed to the environmental benefits of the introduction of LNG to Jamaica. He said that it would allow JPS to make further investments for lower energy costs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He asserted it would have the impact of planting 10 million trees.

"Lower energy costs will help make Jamaica more competitive for nearly every industry. The availability of natural gas also assist industries that can utilise the benefits in other energy processes, whether it's for transportation, steam or cold energy."

Lack of infrastructure and logistical solutions pose challenge

While liquefied natural gas (LNG) brings obvious benefits, Brannen McElmurray, managing director of New Fortress Energy, said that there were challenges. One such is the lack of infrastructure and logistical solutions needed to transport the fuel.

He explained that for a long time, there were no feasible solutions to deliver LNG to many countries in the Caribbean. "But we believe we're in the midst of a major transition, and natural gas will be the prevalent complement to renewables all across the region. Now that technology has advanced and natural gas is available across the world, it comes down to a willingness to invest and commit to the transition."

McElmurray continued: "We've seen far too many projects fail because of a dependence on traditional financing, or a complicated consortium of partners falls apart. That's why we finance, own and develop projects ourselves. It takes a public-private partnership that is committed to success, and that's exactly what happened here in Jamaica."

In terms of the wider Caribbean, McElmurray said that as natural gas continues to spread across the region, there will be more sustainable economic growth and development.

It will lead to reduced electricity costs and modern infrastructure. Additionally, the availability of a more environmentally friendly fuel will make the region more attractive to investors and businesses.

The natural gas industry itself will expand and be a catalyst for economic development, McElmurray said.