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Tobago gas facility opens door to regional pipeline from Cove to Bridgetown

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The completion of the National Gas Company’s natural gas receiving facility at the Cove Industrial Estate in Tobago opens the door to the supply of natural gas to the Eastern Caribbean, according to Wade Hamilton, NGC’s vice president of technical services.


Hamilton was speaking with the Business Guardian last week following the official opening of the facility by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on January 14.


The initial purpose of the facility is to supply natural gas to customers of the Cove Industrial Estate, the first of which is the T&TEC power plant. 


The NGC natural gas processing facility is located next door to the T&TEC power plant, which is expected to start producing electricity by the end of the first quarter, Hamilton said. 


The facility is designed to accommodate two trains each processing about 100 million cubic feet a day of natural gas.


At present, only one processing train has been installed and therefore the facility’s current processing capacity is 100 million cubic feet a day.


Hamilton said Tobago’s entire current demand for electricity can be satisfied with between 10 and 12 million cubic feet of natural gas a day, which means that there is potentially surplus gas that can be supplied to Eastern Caribbean nations such as Barbados.


The pipeline from Tobago to the Eastern Caribbean is a project that is ponsored by the Eastern Caribbean Gas Pipeline Company Ltd (ECGPC). 


US firms control


In the first phase, the company proposes to build a 285-kilometre submarine pipeline starting from Cove Estate in Tobago and running to Barbados. In the second stage, the export of piped natural gas would be expanded to St Lucia, Dominica, Martinique, and Guadeloupe.


According to a January 2012 statement, two US private equity firms, Beowulf Energy LLC and First Reserve Energy International Fund, acquired a 60 per cent stake in ECGPC. The balance of the pipeline company is owned by local companies Guardian Holdings with 15 per cent, Unit Trust Corporation with 15 per cent and the National Gas Company with 10 per cent.


In addition to operations in the US, Beowulf Energy owns Trinity Power, which operates the 225 megawatt, natural gas-fired power generation facility on the Point Lisas Industrial Estate. 


The pipeline is expected to significantly lower the cost of producing electricity in countries such as Barbados which rely primarily on fuel oil to produce electricity. 


ECGPC spokesman, Gregory Rich said: “The company is excited to have Beowulf and FREIF as majority project sponsors in this ground-breaking regional energy infrastructure project. 


“The extensive energy infrastructure experience and substantial financial resources of Beowulf and FREIF will accelerate the implementation of this regionally important project thereby creating long term value for the company’s investors while delivering tangible financial and environmental benefits to the islands served by the pipeline.” 


The processing of the natural gas by the new facility on the Cove Estate includes removing water and condensate (hydrocarbon liquids) from the natural gas stream. 


NGC is considering two options for the disposal of the condensate: The primary option is the sale of the condensate to a third party on the island for use in asphalt manufacturing operations, while the other option is the transportation of the condensate back to Trinidad via cargo vessel for sale to Petrotrin. 


About the facility

The first natural gas was received in Tobago on November 2, 2012 at 5.20pm. 
The project, which was internally financed by NGC, cost about $1 billion (US$185 million) and was in two parts:  

• A 54-kilometre submarine pipeline costing US$130 million, which extends from a platform in BHP Billiton’s Angostura field to the Cove Industrial Estate. The pipeline is 12 inches and is connected to the platform by a subsea manifold;

• The terminal at the Cove Industrial Estate cost between US$50 to US$55 million.
Hamilton said the project was initially due to start in 2008 but was postponed for one year due to the onset of the global financial crisis.


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