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Fuel pipeline 10 years late

Published: 
Sunday, January 8, 2017
A view of the Liquid Fuel Pipeline facility in Caroni. PHOTO: NICOLE DRAYTON

The Liquid Fuel Pipeline project located at Caroni, opposite the cremation site, remains unfinished even after several completion dates were promised.

The project, conceptualised under the People’s National Movement (PNM) led by former prime minister, the late Patrick Manning around 2007, included construction of an eight-inch diameter steel multi–product pipeline from the Pointe–a–Pierre refinery to Caroni, a road tank wagon (RTW) loading facility and a dedicated jet fuel pipeline from Caroni to the Piarco International Airport

It’s been about ten years since and the project is still not fully operational and cost has ballooned since the initial stages, going from around $500 million to about $1.3 billion.

Listed in the State Enterprises’ Investment Programme (SEIP) document of 2013 was that the estimated cost of the project was revised from $597 million to $823.3 million.

Four budgets later, the 2017 SEIP document stated the estimated cost of $1,218.0 million was further revised to $1,263.0 million due to changes in the scope of works. It added that the estimated expenditure for the period April to September 2016 was $50.0 million and $3.6 million for fiscal 2017.

The intention was to create a system that would make it safer to transport liquid fuels since most were transported by marine tankers from Pointe-a-Pierre to the National Petroleum Company at Sea Lots. The LFP was designed to transport 1.6 millions gallons or 42,000 barrels of a day of refined distillates, specifically two types of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

The fuels pipeline was expected to replace the RTWs to transport jet fuels on the roads.

However, Government is remaining mum on the status of the project. Questions sent to acting energy minister Colm Imbert via email on Thursday remained unanswered.

There’s some uncertainty surrounding the completion of the project, as over the years the SEIP documents between 2013 to 2017 list fluctuating percentages for completion.

For instance, the 2017 document stated the project was 92 per cent complete. However, the 2016 document stated the project was “ongoing and is 99 per cent completed.”

The 2015 SEIP document stated it was 97.8 per cent complete. Under the heading Government Funded Project, it stated, “The project was scheduled to be completed by September 2013 however, works were delayed and is now scheduled to be completed by the end of fiscal 2014.”

The agent for this project is the National Gas Company (NGC). Questions sent to a NGC spokesman were not answered.

Enill didn’t think it would take so long

Former energy minister Conrad Enill, who was the line minister at the time of conceptualisation said on Thursday he did not think the project would have taken as long as it has and gave his reasoning for delays.

He said the project was meant to protect the aviation business by ensuring it had a security of supply.

Enill said, “When we conceptualised it, it had to do with the challenges of moving aviation fuels to Piarco. Trinidad and Tobago, as an aviation hub, bascially had to guarantee aircraft flying here that you can get a reasonable supply and you can get a supply as and when it is required.

“If we didn’t do that, it meant that Barbados would have become the hub and we would have lost some airline business. The thinking was to develop a pipeline, which is a more sustainable and safe method of transporting the fuel, so you eliminate the need for the large tankers and so, it really was supposed to be more efficient in terms of distributing fuel from Pointe-a-Pierre to Piarco.”

Told it was not operational, Enill said any project that required construction in communities and through roadways, in some instances needed negotiations for right of ways and land ownership which were lengthy and legal processes.

He said, “I certainly didn’t envision that it would take the length of time that it has taken but what I suspect has happened is either the negotiations of certain right of ways were not completed or the Government did not take action because the Government can actually take possession of property, if it beleived it was in public interest.”

Enill could not recall the initial cost but said the way it would have worked was that technocrats sat and looked at the differentials between the consistent use of tank wagons to supply to Piarco, the question of safety, security and other issues.

A couple of things happened in the period, he said, such as the fluctuating price of steel and oil.

*Year of Completion

2017: Completion 2016

2016: Completion 2015

2015: Completion 2014

2014: Completion 2013

2013: Completion -

*Percentage of works completed

2017: 92 per cent

2016: 99 per cent

2015: 97.8 per cent

2014: 97 per cent

2013: 95 per cent

Estimated Expenditure

2017: $3.6 million FY

2016: $20 million FY

2015: October 2013 to March 2014 - $31.1 million with projections to September 2014 at $35.9 million.

2014: October 2012 to March 2013 - $169.9 million with projections to September 2013 at $58.7 million

2013: Actual cost from October 2011 to March 2012 - $52.8 million, with projections to September 2012 at $58.7 million

n Source: SEIP documents