Ja-T'dad LNG talks at 'ground zero'
Correction & Clarification
The office of utilities Regulations was incorrectly identified as the state entity which will invite bids for the supply of liquefied natural gas. The entity which will deal with the bids is the LNG steering committee.
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
JAMAICA HAS once again approached its Caribbean neighbour, Trinidad and Tobago, to secure a supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG)
Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell said the advances were made by the new Government as early as February. He said he has had discussions with his Trinidad and Tobago counterpart on the issue.
"We are trying to see if there can be an agreement at this stage in relation to the supply of LNG," Paulwell told The Gleaner yesterday.
Paulwell said Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller had also spoken with Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar with a view to working out an agreement.
"We are exploring possibilities now at that level," Paulwell said, while adding that the discussions were "at ground zero".
The LNG steering committee is to open the bid for the supply of LNG in June, and Paulwell said it was important that Jamaica sought to secure an agreement with Trinidad before then.
"We are working with a strict timeline. All of this will have to be dealt with by June," he said.
"I am being very practical, hoping that something will materialise," Paulwell added.
No options ruled out
Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton said in Parliament last week that Jamaica still believed it had an agreement with Trinidad for the supply of natural gas. He said the country was pursuing many options to reduce energy costs and no option had been ruled out.
Hylton, while disclosing that Jamaica had re-engaged Trinidad, castigated the previous administration for the way it handled a dispute over a 2004 memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the supply of LNG.
"It was never reported to this Parliament what the efforts were in terms of either reviving or sustaining the pressure on Trinidad to respect what we believe is a responsibility under the treaty (of Chaguaramas)."
He told the House that since taking office in January, the Portia Simpson Miller-led Government had "re-engaged the Trinidad and Tobago government, and I know the minister of energy is actively in discussion with them at the moment - supported by the ministry of industry, investment and commerce - because we recognise that without redress, issues of industry, investment and commerce will be severely undermined".
In February of 2007, then Trinidad and Tobago prime minister, Patrick Manning, said his government would not renege on the agreement to supply Jamaica with LNG.
"The government of Trinidad and Tobago is determined to satisfy its contractual obligations to the government of Jamaica. An agreement was signed in good faith, and it is our determination, notwithstanding statements to the contrary coming from dubious sources," he told a press conference at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montego Bay, following a joint meeting of the CARICOM prime ministerial subcommittee on external negotiations and the CSME.
Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago signed an MoU in November 2004 for the supply of 1.1 million tonnes of LNG per annum over a 20-year period for use by bauxite/alumina company Jamalco and the Jamaica Public Service Company power plants.
Paulwell yesterday told The Gleaner that the Government was well past the MoU.
"We are not going back to the MoU. That is done and pretty much dead," he said.
"I have moved past that. We have re-engaged Trinidad and Tobago, albeit late, hoping that we are able to secure the supply of LNG. If it does not materialise, we have to move on to other options," the minister said.