August 2010

Petrotrin headquarters, Trinidad

Trinidad’s petroleum company said Friday that crews are cleaning up a spill that seeped into rivers, but denied claims by fishermen that the oil had reached the ocean.

Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited said it fixed a leak in an underground transfer pipe that released oil into the Godineau River and tributaries on the Caribbean island this week.

An estimated five barrels of oil spilled, Petrotrin supervisor Andrew Sinnon Trunkline told reporters at the clean-up site.

Fishermen at San Fernando’s King’s Wharf, about 15 miles (24 kilometres) to the north, said oil was contaminating their nets. They told the Guardian newspaper that oil had spread at least five miles (eight kilometres) into the sea.

Petrotrin denied that, saying it collected water samples at the Gulf of Paria. “Investigations so far have not established any link between the company’s opera-tions and the oil-like substance,” its statement said.

Energy Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan toured the wharf Friday and said it was possible the oil in the water could be diesel fuel from mal-functioning boats.

The company said the spill spread to other rivers because of heavy rains that caused floods across Trinidad, especially in the southern and central flatlands. Dozens of people have been left homeless.

Jamaica Observer


Contributed article by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica

The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) has been looking at issues relating to energy and the environment in light of the critical impact on competitiveness.

The PSOJ believes that energy efficiency has to be improved, because of the adverse effects on the country’s balance of payments. Oil is consuming an increasing percentage of the country’s earnings – oil and petroleum products imports account for over 30 percent of the total value of imports and over 100 percent of total export earnings.

To this end, the PSOJ has secured funding from the EU, under the Proinvest facility, to undertake a regional energy and environmental management project in collaboration with private sector partners in Trinidad and Tobago. This would involve a review of the legislative and regulatory framework, energy and environmental audits for selected firms, training workshops, energy efficiency tool-kits for businesses, a learning and investment mission to the EU, and a regional conference to be held in Trinidad.

The membership base of the PSOJ spans the agro-processing, manufacturing, energy and tourism sectors. These sectors are facing increasing challenges from environmental degradation which threaten their sustainability. Trade and investment agreements with major trading partners increasingly require improved environmental practices in response to the threats posed by global climate change. Hence, there is a clear business need for environmental management. Additionally, achieving international competitiveness for export success has been critically impacted by energy consumption and rising costs. The economic policy frameworks for both countries have highlighted energy efficiency as an area that requires attention and action.

There has been little private sector collaboration at the regional level to address these issues. The PSOJ led energy and environmental management project to be undertaken this year, starting in April 2010, will utilize a private sector collaborative approach to create opportunities for regional inter-company partnerships and joint ventures in developing solutions to the energy problems facing the region.

As was noted at an ARPEL (Associac



The Caribbean LNG bid is unusual. A firm in which the main shareholder is a politically appointed ex-top honcho of the body which has to approve and monitor the deal raises eyebrows in any country. FDI and LNG are good but deals must be vetted as corruption via foreign investment is real. CLNG will invest some US$600m and has reputable partners, but as the file to topple the contractor general is being built we must confront its faceless LNG lobby. Yes, FDI is not taxpayers’ money but things that cost us nothing can harm us! Free Cuban light bulbs choke us; 500 mislaid truckloads of sand ruin beaches, and foreign hotels that flout building laws harm us. We are poor; must we be corrupt too? What must the Office of the Contractor General do when told of a likely corrupt act? Ignore it as it’s not our money? We know BP’s oil deal in Libya, its lobby to free the Lockerbie terrorist who murdered 270 people, and Trafigura gave toxic waste to the Ivory Coast. Corruption and FDI are friends. The LNG lobby say, “Hands off!”, but let’s support the OCG. Energy is a strategic input and we will not be bullied! The ink is not dry and they are emboldened to belittle our OCG! We must proceed with eyes wide open. The LNG lobby protests too much!

Natural Gas (gas) is mainly methane – odourless, colourless, tasteless; we add an odorant so we can smell a leak. If we cap Riverton dump we have a massive supply. Gas was here since forever; gas in nature, ignited by lightning burns for centuries. The Jews’ “burning bush”, the Greeks’ Olympus flame, Chinese bamboo pipelines from 700 BCE tapped earth’s gas leaks. The UK uses gas from the 1700s and fans know tanks near Oval cricket field store gas from Victorian times. US energy comes from oil, coal, gas – in that order – and gas produced in 34 states account for 25 per cent of energy use. The cost to transport gas is horrendous; but now we can turn gas to a liquid (LNG). The same vessel holds 60 times the amount and we turn it back to vapour before use. Gas is cheap, has a good record and US technology is cutting edge. CLNG – a new firm with no track record, ships, technology, power plants or gas fields – is unusual. It is set up just to make money from us and its gas price will be higher than integrated US firms or mature gas providers.

Minister James Robertson has marine heritage, business experience and a future. Hylton’s LNG mantle fits well. Nations make progress building on good ideas of the past – “Paul plants, Appolus waters” power to him! Once gas is embedded in our light and water bills it’s an ATM for CLNG. When some people say, “don’t worry”, be very afraid! CLNG is an offshore firm registered in a tax haven – it is not transparent. It does not trust us with its brand, nor is it in our reach for tax, money laundering or OCG checks. As a new firm doing its first venture in a murder capital, it has cojones, or powerful mentors! Time will tell! I found no D&B reports on its principals. They can control our energy but we must not be “nosy”! This may be the only chance the OCG has to do checks as it has no jurisdiction in the British Virgin Islands. What if all our investors set up in a tax haven?

Minister Robertson hypes cheap gas. This is unwise as the benefit of LNG is choice, not price. There are some 30 LNG import terminals under way in our area. Teeside Gasport in the UK was a first. In 2007 a US firm modified an LNG carrier (total cost US$300m); docked it at Teeside, did re-gasification on board and discharged gas into the grid. The firm now has a fleet of these EBRV ships to serve gasports as far as Europe. Teeside was built in months and used T&T gas. UK electricity firms as Eon, British Gas also sell piped gas to homes and businesses. Why did we choose CLNG and not the cheap, flexible, integrated, proved gas firms of our friend and major trading partner who rescues us in a crisis?

LNG economics is basic. The US uses gas since the1800s. Texas drills wells; the oil goes to refinery, gas to power plants, homes and industry as the state is piped for gas. In 2008 oil prices shot up, gas followed so petrol and electricity costs soared! The result? All industry and the Texas economy collapsed so demand for gas fell. Gas producers could not cover costs so they capped their wells and went fishing. Demand and supply rule! As demand for gas rises so will price; when demand for oil falls oil will be cheap. Robertson is wrong. LNG is not our “preferred energy source”. LNG is good because it gives us choice and more gas firms will give us more choice and better prices!

Cabinet and the nation must consider some other issues:

(1) A gas cartel as in oil will soon exist. Producers will not cap their wells when prices fall and CLNG will not fold. Like OPEC they will fix volume, price and screw us royally!

(2) Open our strategic sectors to multinationals or local firms only; ban new firms formed in tax havens. They make money here but are not subject to all our taxes and scrutiny.

(3) Raw gas is cheap CLNG’s replacement, maintenance, royalty and other costs are not. With this and US$600m capital in our electricity formulae our energy will not be cheap.

(4) Has Cabinet done risk studies, plans, budgets? National security, safety, environment? Coast Guard, marine fire service, law, regulation, no-fly, no-boat zones? The lobby is wrong. CLNG will cost taxpayers millions and we may get none of their taxes!

(5) T&T will give its nation a bigger “bly” to cancel Jamaican export gains from LNG. For JMA it’s a zero sum game! T&T has the sources; it’s their game; they will always win!

(6) Ban politicians, family and political appointees from going into business or jobs in their area of service during and for five years after leaving office. Let’s block this corrupt path!

(7) For US$150m local investors can develop “Mobay Gasport” – as Teeside – and use the US firm’s EBRV fleet. The west would be energy sufficient, can backstop the JPS and accept Trinidad’s gas offer! We have many oil marketing firms as Shell, Esso; let’s have many for gas too! By 2016 local gas and oil prices will converge. A MoBay gasport will ensure convergence at a lower price than a monopolist CLNG would wish. Let’s protect ourselves! You read it here first in 2010! Stay conscious, my friend!

The Minister of Health’s plan for a book to track health status of children is good. But in 2010 a chip embedded in an all-weather ID card, read, coded at clinics, is the shot!

Dr Franklin Johnston is an international project manager with Teape-Johnston Consultants currently on assignment in the UK.

Jamaica Observer


This article was written in 2008 and we are still waiting on a resolution for net billing or net metering in Jamaica.

Kingston, Jamaica — (METERING.COM) — July 8, 2008


Mr. Roderick Gordon, Attorney-at-Law

The scale and investment in renewable energy worldwide have been staggering. Staggering when one thinks of the decades of fossil fuel dominance and dependence. Indeed, locomotion and static energy needs have been met almost exclusively by some form of generation that uses one form of fossil fuel or another, since man discovered the spark.

To be clear, there are two identifiable areas of renewable energy viability that Jamaica has identified. First, the use of ethanol (and eventually biodiesel) to substitute and conserve the use of imported petroleum. Second, the use of energy generated from renewable sources to supplement and hopefully retire some of the current generation from oil consuming units.

Both take significant investment and long term plans by private capital. Private investors, whether local or international, are primarily motivated by the rate of return on the capital employed. There has to be a plausible and definable path to this return in the medium to long term. Such expectation is not new to Jamaica, as historically a number of incentive programmes and laws have been passed to encourage nascent industries.

There is a peculiar urgency about the need for such incentive however. It is painfully clear to both government and private citizen, that fossil fuel costs will never return to a comfort zone that one can not be concerned about. The pain is felt daily, in virtually every sphere of activity, and is constant.

This urgency is made more acute by the aggressive amount and scope of specific laws passed in developed countries, as well as developing ones, to attract capital to invest in the development of a renewable energy industry. It is well documented that the world leaders in the solar and biofuel industries, such as Germany and Spain, achieved this status by the early passing of a Renewable Energy Sources Act (



I THINK the time has come for the Government to put in place some kind of mechanism, except the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), to examine the the affairs of the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS). I say except the OUR as I don’t think this organisation has been doing enough to protect consumers from what appears to be the company’s shenanigans in its billing system. Talk to any Jamaican in any walk of life, be they company executive or the ordinary man in the street, and you will hear the same story: despite great efforts to reduce their consumption of electricity, the bill is always higher than the one before.

My own experience bears out the collective experience of most persons. I am chairperson of a strata corporation, responsible for the common areas of a shopping centre in Liguanea, St Andrew. In an effort to reduce electricity consumption, we turned off most of the light to the common areas during the month of June, but instead of seeing a reduction from the previous bill, our current bill is now over 30 per cent above May’s bill. How come, JPS?

The exchange rate was always used by the JPS to justify monthly increases to customers, but this can no longer be the case, as the rates have remained fairly stable for some time now. So, again, how come, JPS? If the country is being asked to conserve electricity so we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil, why should all the savings end up in the coffers of a foreign company rather than in the saving accounts of people who make the sacrifice?

I am, etc.,

Winston Barrett

Jamaica Gleaner


Disaster safeguards in place, says expert…

A leading local expert in energy says that efforts to drill for oil and gas off the coast of Jamaica are scheduled to resume in 2011, and that adequate systems are in place to prevent any accidents similar to the one in the Gulf of Mexico in April.

Consultant to the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica Dr Raymond Wright said 12 of 16 blocks have been licensed for drilling for oil offshore Jamaica. He said environmental impact assessments will be done on each drilling site, which involves collection information on Jamaica’s flora and fauna.

WRIGHT… has said that environmental impact assessments will be done on each drilling site.

However, he refused to be drawn on whether oil would be found in commercial quantities in Jamaican territory.

“There is oil and gas to be found in Jamaica. There are prospects for such (oil and gas) to be found in deep water, essentially the same water depths as those in the Gulf of Mexico,” he said.

Wright was the guest speaker at the annual general meeting of the Jamaica Institute of Environmental Professionals (JIEP), held at the Environmental Division of the Ministry of Land and Environment in Kingston last Wednesday.

He cited human error for the spill at BP’s Deepwater Horizon well in April, which resulted in 3.9 million barrels of oil gushing out into the ocean. Wright said it was “man-made errors in large measure” resulting in the non-maintenance of a blowout preventer which caused the spill. He noted that BP was “caught off guard” by the accident and “did not know what to do and how to respond”.

A blowout preventer is a large, specialised valve used to seal, control and monitor oil and gas wells.

It is the second largest oil spill in history behind a spill of 5.7 million gallons of oil in the Persian gulf in 1991.

He said of the 6,000 wells drilled in the Gulf of Mexico, this was first that resulted in a spill for this reason.

The threat from the Gulf spill to the Caribbean no longer exists as the sea currents took the oil northward and way from the region, Wright confirmed.

He noted that the fourth largest spill in history took place in Caribbean waters in 1979 when two tankers laden with petroleum collided off the coast of Tobago and caught fire, spilling 2.14 million barrels of oil in the sea in the process. He said although no assessment and very little clean-up was done, there was little effect as a result because “apparently a lot (of the oil) evaporated and some fell to the ocean floor in clumps”.

He said 11 wells were drilled onshore and offshore Jamaica between 1966 and 1982, and oil and gas found in nine, but not in commercial amounts.

In the election of officers Marcia Creary was re-elected unopposed as president of the JIEP. Other members of the executive include vice president Eleanor Jones, treasurer Sean Townshend and secretary Danae Vaccianna.

Jamaica Observer


While some investors feel they’re still waiting for the sun to rise on the solar energy industry, it’s already high noon for some parts of the sector.

In some places in the U.S. today, solar photovoltaic, PV, technology