The Weekly Brief: Greater Caribbean


April 5, 2020 edition–Punta Catalina’s bid; Touchstone’s discovery; and T&T’s natural gas troubles.



Last Week in a Minute or Less


Central America. Panamá may become an LNG distribution center; and the World Bank lowered El Salvador’s economic outlook.


Greater Antilles / Northern Islands. Punta Catalina’s maintenance attracts 43 bids; JPS is getting the Hunts Bay plant ready; and Cuba’s strategies to get fuel were uncovered.


Lesser Antilles / Southern Islands. Touchstone found light oil on Ortoire; WREL raised bonds for solar; the US Virgin Islands will rely on its wind; and Trinidad & Tobago’s natural gas is suffering.


South America’s Caribbean Coast. Colombia cut the ribbon on its first geothermal power unit; Maduro proposed an oil for vaccines swap; and Guyana and Suriname may fight over oil this year.


Déjà vu all over again. Last week’s readers were particularly interested in El Salvador’s FSRU (Seatrade Maritime News – English); the Manzanillo project’s benefits (El Dinero – Spanish); and Bosques de los Llanos’ third phase (PV Magazine – Spanish).



Government & NGO


The CDB will fight poverty in the Caribbean. The Caribbean Development Bank will fund a US$383m program of the Special Development Fund to reduce poverty and inequality and transform the lives of Caribbean citizens (Caribank – English). The top five contributors to the fund are Canada, the UK, Germany, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago.


The World Bank lowered El Salvador’s economic outlook. The World Bank cut the economic outlook for El Salvador in 2021, with a 4.1% growth (El Mundo – Spanish). The World Bank improved Panamá’s economic forecast to 9.9%, and Nicaragua’s to 0.9%.


Protests continue in Haiti. The country’s electoral official said the Caribbean nation’s government will not give in to demands to stop elections and hand over power (Bloomberg – English). Protesters are calling for President Jovenel Moise to make way for a transitional government.


Colombia expects a stable rate and moderate inflation. Colombia’s central bank is expected to maintain the benchmark interest rate unchanged at 1.75% (Reuters – English). Inflation in Colombia is forecasted to have moderated in March thanks to domestic consumption (Reuters – English).


Venezuela and Colombia’s border became a war zone. Human rights groups called on the UN to appoint a special envoy to address the humanitarian crisis caused by clashes between Venezuelan troops and Colombian armed groups near the border (Reuters – English).



Oil & Gas Upstream


The legal challenge hit BPC’s funds. According to the company’s chief executive, the Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) had to seek US$19m in additional funding for the Perseverance One well after the legal challenge launched by environmentalists scared funds away (Tribune 242 – English).


Colombia okayed ExxonMobil’s pilot fracking project. The Caribbean country approved the oil giant’s plan to develop a pilot project for fracking in the Valle Medio del Magdalena basin (Reuters – English). According to the National Hydrocarbons Agency (ANH), the project is expected to attract US$53m in investment.


Guyana and Suriname may fight over oil this year. Suriname plans to move its offshore exploration closer to the Stabroek fields of Guyana (Oil and Gas Republic – English). The market expects an increase in wells drilled and discovered in the Guyana basin (Oil Price – English).


Touchstone found light oil on Ortoire. Touchstone Exploration announced that light oil had been discovered on the Ortoire block in onshore Trinidad & Tobago (Value the Markets – English). The firm holds an 80% interest in onshore block Ortoire, while Heritage Petroleum has a 20% working interest.


Ecopetrol is turning away from oil. Ignoring Petrobras and Pemex’s plans, Colombia’s largest company, Ecopetrol, is taking a step away from its core oil and gas business. Colombia has just over seven years’ worth of proven reserves left (Financial Times – English).



Liquid Fuels Mid-Downstream


Venezuelan oil sanctions may complicate the summer. US oil sanctions could exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in the Caribbean nation if the diesel shortage continues during the summer (Platts – English). President Biden’s administration is being asked to ease sanctions allowing crude-for-diesel swaps, but doing so could indirectly help Maduro remain in office.


Maduro proposed an oil for vaccines swap. President Nicolás Maduro said Venezuela was working to pay for vaccines from the World Trade Organization’s COVAX mechanism through funds frozen overseas due to sanctions and through oil shipments (Reuters – English). Venezuela has received vaccines from Russia and China.


Cuba’s strategies to get fuel were uncovered. An investigation by the Miami Herald uncovered Cuba’s use of shell companies through Liechtenstein to bring in chemicals, fuel, and construction supplies despite the trade embargo (Miami Herald – English). The study focuses on the work of Acemex since 1984.


Curaçao’s fuel tariffs are up. Due to an increase in international fuel prices, the regulated tariff for gasoline and diesel on Curaçao will increase (Curaçao Chronicle – English). Consequently, the rates for electricity and water will also increase due to the fuel clause.



Natural Gas Mid-Downstream & LNG


Panamá may become an LNG distribution center. Panamá can become an export center of LNG to distribute to Central America and the rest of the region, being the first country in the area with such infrastructure (Prensa – Spanish). AES Colón’s storage system could ease LNG distribution both in the national and regional markets.


JPS is getting Hunts Bay plant ready. Jamaica Public Service Company started the preparatory work to transform its Hunt Bay plant to run on liquified natural gas (Jamaica Gleaner – English). The project is expected to be done within five years.


Trinidad & Tobago’s natural gas is suffering. Proman group announced the decision to idle two of its five methanol plants due to the company’s inability to secure a short-term gas supply contract for April (Stabroek News – English). The company and the state-owned National Gas Company were negotiating the extension of natural gas sales contracts.


Punta Catalina may turn to natural gas. The Energy and Mines Ministry, lawmakers, and local authorities discussed a possible agreement to convert Punta Catalina to natural gas. All participants agreed on the need to end the pollution from the Punta Catalina coal plants (El Día – Spanish).



Electric Power & Renewables


Colombia cut the ribbon on its first geothermal power unit. Parez Resources, along with the National University of Colombia, Medellin campus, and Colombia’s Mines and Energy Ministry, opened a pilot geothermal power generation unit in Casanare (Renewables Now – English). The system will produce hydrocarbons and 100kW of electrical power.


WREL raised bonds for solar. Williams Renewable Energy (Two) Limited raised US$7m in green energy bonds to finance solar projects in Barbados (Renewables Now – English). The funds will be used to add more rooftop and ground-mounted solar in partnership with individuals and businesses.


Puerto Rico’s Luma Energy contract is an open debate. The Power Industry Workers Union (UTIER) presented corrections to the contract between the Power Energy Authority (AEE) and Luma Energy, recommending its cancellation (Univision – Spanish). The UTIER recommended eliminating the clauses regarding force majeure, allowing Luma to leave in case of a hurricane.


Punta Catalina’s maintenance attracts 43 bids. A total of 43 companies showed interest in the public bid for the operation and maintenance of two units of the Punta Catalina thermoelectric power plant (CTPC) (Dominican Today – English). Transparency will be the criterion that will prevail during the following phases until the final choice of supplier.


The US Virgin Islands will rely on its wind. The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority approved a wind power purchase agreement with Advance Power. Advance Power will develop, finance, permit, design, construct, test, operate, and maintain a wind farm at Bovoni Point within 24 months (St. Thomas Source – English).



Old School Social Goes Viral


(Editor’s note: For the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak, this section will refocus on announcements of event delays or cancellations, events that are moved online, and scheduled webinars and public conference calls. Stay safe!)



The Hydrogen Congress for Latin America & the Caribbean – H2LAC is rescheduled for April 14-15.


The Island Energy Transformation Training Series will be held April 29.



Lateral Thinking


Caribbean algae will power up hotels. Maof, an Israeli company that works on environmental and waste disposal projects, plans to open a facility to collect, transport, and process algae to enable energy generation (Israel 21C – English). The company is working with other Latin American authorities and universities.



Quote of the Week


“In proud desperation

I took

A handful of emptiness

As my trophy.”



-Oda Blinder (1918-1969), poet and writer from Curaçao.



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