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State-owned National Gas Company yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Chinese clean energy solutions company, ENN, to fast-track implementation of the Government’s compressed natural gas (CNG) conversion programme. The MoU was signed by NGC chairman Roopchan Chadeesingh and the president of the ENN Group, Cheung Yipsang, at the Grand Hyatt in Beijing, on the first day of the official visit of a T&T delegation to China.
Speaking after the signing ceremony, Chadeesingh said under the MoU, the ENN Group would conduct an analysis of the current CNG infrastructure in T&T and would advise the company on what else it needed to do to maximise the conversion of the country’s gasoline-using vehicles to CNG, which was compressed natural gas.
For about the last 15 years, T&T governments have been attempting to encourage vehicle users to convert from gasoline or diesel to CNG based on the premise that natural gas is cheaper and cleaner for the environment. In the 2014 budget, Finance Minister Larry Howai outlined a two-phase, five-year $2.07 billion project to be undertaken by NGC. In the first phase, which would involve the expenditure of $500 million, some 22 new CNG stations would be constructed and 17,500 vehicles converted from diesel to CNG.
Chadeesingh said the focus in the first phase would be to convert public transport vehicles—both those owned and operated by the Public Transport Corporation and those maxi-taxis operated privately, as well as large transportation fleets. The NGC chairman underscored the fact that the drive to convert vehicles to CNG was based on the need to reduce the huge and increasing fuel subsidy that governments had paid to ensure stability in fuel prices.
“We believe that if we invest this $500 million, we will save much more than that outlay,” said Chadeesingh. Citing an example, he said the cost of subsidising one diesel-using maxi-taxi is about $96,000 a year. Diesel retails in T&T for $1.50 a litre, while CNG sells for $1.
Asked why NGC chose to partner with ENN, the gas company’s chairman said: “We were looking for a company that has done this type of work already,” adding that the Chinese company successfully converted many vehicles in a small Chinese city of four million people. Chadeesingh said he and NGC president Indar Maharaj toured ENN’s facilities in China in January, viewing the company’s conversion process and equipment, stations and the environmental checks and balances the company had in place.
The recommendation to look at the possibility of using ENN came from China’s deputy head of National Energy Administration, Zhang Yuqing, who visited Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine last July. Ramnarine is part of the Prime Minister’s delegation in China this week and sat in on the signing ceremony. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is due to arrive in Beijing from London today and will begin a hectic round of engagements with Chinese officials.
She is due to officially open T&T’s embassy in China on Wednesday. The last time a T&T leader visited China was in 1974 when the late prime minister Dr Eric Williams visited the country twice.