(Trinidad Guardian) Former Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine yesterday described as “bad news for the energy sector,” the decision by Methanol Holdings Trinidad Limited (MHTL) to shut down two of its five methanol plants at the Plipdeco estate and offer VSEP to the affected workers.
The decision was announced last Friday in a meeting between workers and the operator, Industrial Plant Services Ltd. The shutdown comes as the Point Lisas-based company is faced with the problem of a gas shortage.
MHTL is the second company located at Plipdeco which reported a shortage in gas. The first company faced with the problem was Caribbean Ispat, which also ended operations here one year ago.
Commenting on the news yesterday, Ramnarine said it was unfortunate the National Gas Company Ltd could not come to an agreement with MHTL.
In emailed response, he said: “My understanding is that MHTL put forward a number of commercial proposals which were not accepted by the NGC. It’s very disappointing that this has happened, since methanol prices are very good at this time. It’s also likely that the gas supply situation will improve at the end of 2017 and into 2018.”
Weighing in on initiatives such as the Dragon Field in Venezuela, he said, “The Venezuela/Dragon deal is fraught with political risk. I saw one gentleman say we will get gas from Venezuela in 2019. I’m happy if that happens but it seems overly optimistic.”
Ramnarine added: “BP’s TROC is on target to deliver gas. It will help but not cure the problem. The BP Juniper project is also on target. It too will help but again it won’t cure the entire problem of the shortage. The BP Savannah exploration well is being drilled and we await the outcome.”
While MHTL has not announced how much staff will be affected, Ramnarine said it was unfortunate workers would lose jobs as a result of the shut down.
“If MHTL decides in 12 months to restart these two plants, it is likely that these workers would have moved on and won’t be available to MHTL. That means re-mobilising for restarting the plants would be more costly.”
Overall, Ramnarine questioned why the Poten and Partners Gas Master plan has not been implemented and called for its implementation.
“Poten and Partners completed the Gas Master Plan in August 2015. The election came and the PNM decided they wanted to make changes and review it. I have no issue there but that was 18 months ago.”
Critical of the decision-making process within the energy sector, Ramnarine said the pace has clearly slowed.
“In addition, we are facing a tough situation at the Ministry of Energy with the departure of the top tier of public servants via retirement. I am optimistic, however, that there are some bright young persons at the ministry who can step up if given the chance.”
Efforts to contact Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus were unsuccessful yesterday, as she did not answer her cellphone or respond to messages.