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Gas pipeline concerns

Barbados’ quest for cheaper natural gas via a landmark $600 million pipeline originating in Trinidad and Tobago is set to enter a new phase within the next couple months.

But there are concerns about the implications of a recent statement from Martinique officials indicating that country was having second thoughts about whether the venture was their best option to lower energy costs.

With construction of the pipeline from Cove Point Estate in Tobago to Barbados, there are some suggestions any withdrawal by any of the countries could result in increased costs to those left, including Barbados.

The Eastern Caribbean Gas Pipeline Company, which is in charge of the joint venture project, said in information released this week that host government agreements for Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados were expected to be completed by the end of September.

This followed the signing of an inter-government agreement between the two CARICOM partners, covering a 20-year gas export term, in May last year.

It was also pointed out that the necessary underwater seabed and geotechnical surveys were expected to begin within the current quarter once weather conditions permitted, and that an underwater survey contractor was chosen.

ECGPC officials also reported that the natural gas to liquids plant design “has been progressing well and detailed discussions are on-going with the National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago and Phoenix Park Gas Processors Limited. They also noted that NGC was finalising its analysis of the various NGL solutions.

They also said that a “detailed review of the project” done by gas transpiration financing company DORIS Engineering produced results, which “demonstrated that the pipeline system could result in reducing fuel costs by 25 per cent to 40 per cent”.

Officials in Bridgetown and other partners in the pipeline will also be expected to discuss the implications of any Martinique pull out. Government spokesman for the French territory, Serge Letchimy, said last week that his country preferred to focus on renewable and alternative energy sources instead of the pipeline.

He said they wanted to reduce dependency on fossil fuels ahead of the pipeline’s completion, which was expected to take some time.

Despite the Martinique uncertainty, ECGPC management said plans for the project were continuing unabated, focussing on the three “fundamental elements” of government agreements, technical feasibility, and financing. (SC)

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