NPC says solution near but BHTA in wait and see mode

The National Petroleum Corporation (NPC) is reporting progress in resolving natural gas problems that have been affecting dozens of hotels and restaurants, with a promise that by the middle of this month it would be able to meet current demand.

But the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) is not celebrating just yet.

In a paid advertisement published in the newspaper today, the NPC announced a five-pronged solution which it will be executing in collaboration with the Barbados National Oil Company (BNOCL). The corporation pledged to meet its current demand by mid-February, install redundant systems by the fourth quarter of this year, and work with the Division of Energy and Telecommunications and the BNOCL to implement short, medium and long-term systems to ensure customers’ requirements can be met.

However, BHTA’s executive vice president Sue Springer is adopting a wait-and-see attitude.

BHTA executive vice president Sue Springer
BHTA executive vice president Sue Springer

“I am happy that they [NPC/BNOCL] are telling us that progress is being made [and] that they are finding a resolution, and I hope that resolution would come to fruition very quickly and that it would be sustained,” she told Barbados TODAY, insisting that the industry would have to see results and not just promises before it could claim any relief.

Springer disclosed that the natural gas outages and low pressure during the winter tourist season have been costing BHTA members, particularly the restaurants, thousands of dollars in losses.

She also identified hotels, such as Accra Beach Resort, which use gas to operate laundry services, water heating and cooking.

“Once we knew that there was going to be a prolonged issue, many of our hotels made alternative arrangements by either buying electrical stoves or electrical rings to cook, and some of them even changed to bottled gas,” Springer noted.

However, she urged caution in going the latter route, noting that “if everybody now turns to bottled gas, we may end up with another problem which could mean that we have not got enough bottled gas”.

Another problem, Springer added, was that bottled gas was more expensive than natural gas and would therefore result in increased operational costs.

In today’s published advertisement, the NPC said its five-point plan was aimed not only at resolving the current problems but ensuring the sustainable supply of gas for the medium and long-term.

The BNOCL will resume production of some of its wells that were out of commission, install countrywide redundancy for its natural gas system to ensure a high level of security of supply to satisfy all of its customers.

In the medium term, the NPC said that its long-term solution calls for negotiations – now in progress – with the government of Trinidad and Tobago regarding the importation of natural gas to Barbados, while the BNOCL is expected to commence its drilling programme within the next 12 months.

As an immediate load-shedding resolution, some of the NPC’s major commercial establishments with existing alternative fuel systems, have been asked to switch to their systems.

“We have an agreement from these entities who have consented to this request in the national interest. This should facilitate the immediate demand,” the notice stated.

One Response to GAS FIX?

  1. Carl Harper February 5, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    Houston, we have a monumental problem on our hands to which this government is only paying lip service.

    What about the Prime Minister’s promise to spend $7 million retrofitting the gas facility and buying new trucks to collect and transport natural gas from the well head within four weeks? We are already into the second week…and counting.

    Remember it took this DLP government four months to retrofit a building to be used as an Ebola treatment center, and just as long to renovate a house to detain former drug smuggler Raul Garcia. 

    Keep your fingers crossed that this small project will be completed by mid-February. If not, it can have a devastating impact on our tourism and businesses such as WIBISCO.

    WIBISCO is losing about 50 per cent of production capacity as a result of the gas shortage. It is threatening the company’s viability and ability to fill the orders of overseas customers, and losing vital foreign exchange. If this untenable situation continues, it could also affect 250 jobs.

    So Sue Springer is correct. The tourist and manufacturing industries would have to see results and not just promises before it could claim any relief.


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