By Kate Thomas
OGJ Online

HOUSTON, Feb. 14, 2001—High North American gas prices have U.S. industries considering relocating or expanding in gas-rich Trinidad and Tobago, says Lindsay Gillette, minister of energy and energy industries.

“This development has encouraged petrochemical producers to consider countries like Trinidad and Tobago with a history of successful development of gas-based petrochemical projects as likely investment locations for new plants,” Gillette said at the Cambridge Energy Research Associates conference.

Already, four ammonia projects representing 4 million tonnes/year, and two methanol plants, representing 3 million tonnes/year, are in the works, he said. In addition, Caribbean Nitrogen Co. expects to complete a plant there in 2002.

Other possibilities include gas-based power for use in energy intensive industries such as steel and aluminum, an ethylene plant, and a gas-to-liquids facility as an alternative to LNG, he said.

Gas producers and shareholders in the Atlantic LNG Co. project have already expressed interest in expanding the project again, possibly by adding a fourth train, Gillette said. In December, the government approved the addition of the second and third train at the facility, raising its capacity by 200%.

Train 1 produces 3 million tonnes/year of LNG, while Trains 2 and 3 will produce 3.3 million tonnes/year each. Atlantic LNG Co. operates the facility, in which BG Group affiliate BG International, BP, and Spain’s Repsol-YPF SA are the three major shareholders.

Gillette said the expansion is the result of producer interest in rapidly monetizing reserves and opportunities to develop new markets in Spain and the U.S..

Increased NGL and condensate production is expected to lead to greater ethane volume adequate to justify a world -cale ethylene facility, he said.

Gillette said Trinidad and Tobago’s proved reserves rose to 21.3 tcf in 2000, up from 10 tcf in 1995. Probable or possible reserves have risen to 9.4 tcf from 9 tcf in the same time period, and he estimated the exploration potential totals 50-70 tcf of gas. To date, exploration companies have experienced an 80% success rate.

Demand has grown at a compounded rate of 13%/year since 1995, excluding LNG production which started in 1999, he said. Petrochemical production represents 45% of gas demand; LNG, 30%; and electricity generation, 14%; with heavy and light industry accounting for the rest.

Gillette also expressed optimism that Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela will cooperate in development of offshore gas reserves. “We believe in the near future there will be joint gas field development based on the synergy of such operations,” he said.