Jamaica excited by natural-gas prospects
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
ENERGY MINISTER Phillip Paulwell said, on Wednesday, that the change in United States (US) policy to allow the export of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to the Caribbean is a major breakthrough for Jamaica.
"All along, for Jamaica, whether we were trying to pursue Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria, and so on, it was to have access to gas. Gas has been a part of our strategy, to change from liquid fuel, to generate electricity, to gas and renewable," the minister told The Gleaner.
Speaking on a Caribbean Energy Security Initiative in Washington on Monday, US vice-president, Joe Biden, told Caribbean leaders to seize the opportunity to diversify their fuel sources.
the time is now
"Let's start with oil prices, now under $50 a barrel. This gives governments a little space to breathe, and it's likely it's going to remain relatively low for at least the near term, the next several years. There's an old saying: The best time to fix a roof is when the sun is shining. The sun is shining now, figuratively speaking. The time is now," Biden said.
"You can now purchase gas on the open market from many countries, including your neighbour, Trinidad and Tobago, right now. There's also LNG exporters in the United States with licenses to export to any of your countries, whether you have a free-trade agreement or not. If you want gas, go talk to them," Biden added.
Kelly Tomblin, president and CEO of Jamaica Public Service Company, told The Gleaner on Wednesday that the company is speaking with a number of potential suppliers to get gas for its Bogue plant, which is about to be converted from diesel, as well as for the new 190 plant to be built at Old Harbour.
"We have been trying to get gas for some time, and any time a market is opening up for us, we are very happy about it," Tomblin said.
"We are very excited to hear more options available for our plants but, more than that, we are happy to hear about the partnerships that, at least, it looks like the US wants to have with Jamaica," she added.
Paulwell said, based on investigations done by the Inter-American Development Bank, gas could reach Jamaica cheaper than was envisioned in the ill-fated deal with Energy World International.
The Government is targeting the use of LNG as a major plank in its bid to have electricity bills cut by 40 per cent. However, efforts to source the gas and have it transported to Jamaica, to be burnt in power plants, have not reaped success.
Meanwhile, Paulwell said Jamaica is not turning its back on the PetroCaribe facility, offered by Venezuela, an advisory of the United States.
The PetroCaribe facility allows Caribbean nations to have a portion of their oil bill deferred for 20 years while incurring a low interest rate.
"We continue to express our tremendous appreciation to the Venezuela government and we will continue to import fuel, in the form of crude, under the PetroCaribe agreement. The Venezuelans have assured us that they are not going to change any aspect of the agreement and we are grateful for that and we are grateful to the Americans for coming forward," Paulwell said.