Securing T&T’s energy transition across all sectors requires critical factors including funding, creating an enabling environment and proper infrastructure like a bunkering hub.
These are all key to the maritime sector especially, said Lisa-Marie Ramlal, Proman’s sustainability manager in an interview with the Business Guardian.
She was among key stakeholders who presented at the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Conference themed, “From Ideas to Action” which signified the transition from theoretical concepts and innovative ideas to practical and feasible actions to address the energy challenges facing the region.
According to the chamber’s website, the theme further emphasised the need for collaborative efforts and partnerships between industry experts, policymakers, academia, and stakeholders to implement sustainable solutions and achieve tangible outcomes in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency.
According to the chamber, “From Ideas to Action” also highlighted the importance of converting ideas into practical and actionable plans, leveraging the latest technology and innovation, and incorporating best practices and lessons learned from successful projects worldwide.
“The Caribbean region has been facing significant energy challenges, including high dependence on fossil fuels, energy insecurity and the negative impact of climate change.
“The theme seeks to inspire and motivate participants to collaborate and take concrete steps towards achieving a more sustainable, secure, and resilient energy future in the Caribbean.
“By bridging the gap between ideas and action, the conference aims to promote knowledge sharing, capacity building, and networking among experts, practitioners, and stakeholders, ultimately leading to the implementation of effective and sustainable solutions for the region’s energy challenges,” the chamber further explained.
According to Ramlal, who is based at Proman’s headquarters in Switzerland, while there have been strides, the maritime sector still faces some obstacles in achieving its quest for cleaner energy.
“Many vessel owners are tasked with the responsibility of employing high-cost initiatives such as technology to outfit their ships.
“These are quite capital intensive and therefore, they need to have a variety of technology and alternate fuels they can select from. So one of the challenges in that particular sector would be the ability to utilise these technologies; however, they are quite expensive.
“Carbon capture, for instance, is still very costly and under evaluation. These are good things but to bring them to a more feasible place you need incentives and policy mechanisms for these ship and vessel owners to make the switch,” she said.
So how does Proman fit into this?
Ramlal noted the company has over 35 years of experience operating in the local energy sector, adding that globally the company manufactures around six million metric tonnes of methanol per year, the majority of which is produced in Trinidad.
More importantly, she said, is a bunkering hub.
“The opportunity for Trinidad is that we (Proman) already have knowledge, expertise, and technical expertise in the area of methanol production. We have a lot of safe operating procedures already established, so the opportunity here for Trinidad is to develop a bunkering hub which utilises various fuels, one of them being methanol,” Ramlal explained.
Last November, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said that T&T will explore a bunkering industry, based on the use of methanol as a marine fuel.
Speaking at the launch of Proman’s methanol-fuelled tanker, Stena Pro Patria, the Prime Minister said T&T would seek to take advantage of its geographical location, of being close to the Panama Canal by offering fuel services for ships.
Reiterating the importance of such a facility, Ramlal said it is also an important job creator for the sector.
“Tug boats, surveyors, the port authority, logistics, all of these areas are benefiting now indirectly and directly from the business that has been generated from the bunkering hub,” she outlined, adding that this country’s geographical location is also ideal being in a sheltered coastline with trade routes close to the Panama Canal.
Saying that T&T already had 100 years of experience in oil and natural gas, Ramlal said the bunkering hub could play a key role in the country’s energy transition.
However, support from the Government, as well as necessary policies, are needed to bring this to fruition.
“We also need incentives to ensure the licences are available to allow for the bunkering of ship to ship or any other mechanisms or procedures to be in place...infrastructure, any modification or minor modification, low investment we anticipate because the infrastructure is already developed around that but these are some of the aspects to look into to make it feasible,” Ramlal detailed.
On whether T&T still has a long way to go to truly meet its sustainability goals as far as energy transition is concerned, Ramlal referenced the largest solar park in the Caribbean which is about to be built at Brechin Castle.
“That is actually a pivotal point for Trinidad. I think to redivert some of the natural gas that is being directed to the electricity sector now for the downstream business because obviously, the feedstock for our methanol and ammonia plants is natural gas. Where we can direct the value for Trinidad and Tobago through the use of renewables...that to me is an idea which has turned to action,” she added.
In sharing insights into Proman’s sustainability unit which was established just under a year ago, Ramlal said, “The objectives are to monitor all activities, projects that we are exploring, existing plants and new projects in terms of our impact on climate change as well as environmental impact and social aspects and ensure that we are aligned and achieving the group’s goals.”
And as a woman holding such an integral position in that unit, Ramlal disclosed, “I never felt in our company that we (women) were disadvantaged. I always felt that Proman is a very diverse place to work and now that I have shifted to the headquarters, it is no different. We have a diverse set of employees coming from Germany, the Trinidad office, Portugal and the US working together and my team is actually two women and one guy.”
The two-day conference was hosted by the T&T Energy Chamber and was held at the Hyatt Regency hotel, Port-of-Spain.
The third day featured tours of energy assets in T&T.
The Energy Chamber of T&T established this conference back in 2017.
It was the first conference dedicated to the promotion of energy efficiency and renewable energy in Trinidad and Tobago.
The conference has since grown in terms of its prominence in the energy landscape in T&T and the wider region and by the number of participants.
The conference had several iterations of its name and is now known as the “The Caribbean Sustainable Energy Conference” to ensure that it fully represents all topics under the issue of energy transition in the Caribbean.